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Cholesterol: How to Lower it for Your Better Health Condition
Cholesterol: How to Lower it for Your Better Health Condition

Cholesterol: How to Lower it for Your Better Health Condition

You have probably heard about the heart-healthy Mediterranean Diet. You may have even heard of the DASH Diet which can reduce blood pressure. But you might not have heard of the Portfolio Diet. All three eating patterns are based on plant foods and are beneficial for your heart. If you want to know how to lower cholesterol levels, the Portfolio Diet is important to you. The Portfolio Diet can be helpful when you need to avoid taking higher doses of cholesterol-lowering medications to lower the risk of heart attacks.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fat-like, waxy substance made by the liver and necessary for your good health. Your body will need it for doing important tasks such as – digesting fatty foods and preparing hormones. The body will make all the cholesterol it requires and so, people eat little dietary cholesterol when they have a healthy eating plan. There is the presence of dietary cholesterol in animal foods such as poultry, eggs, dairy products, meat and seafood.

What kinds of cholesterol are there?

  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) – This is also called bad cholesterol and when you have higher LDL cholesterol levels, it may cause an accumulation of plaque in the arteries. This can be the reason for heart disease or stroke.
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol – higher levels can lessen the risk of stroke and heart disease.
  • Triglycerides, (TG) – This is a kind of fat present in the blood and used by your body for energy. Combining higher triglycerides levels with low HDL cholesterol or high LDL cholesterol levels may increase the risk of having a stroke and heart attack.
  • Total cholesterol (TC). The total amount of cholesterol in the blood depends upon your LDL, HDL and triglycerides numbers.

What are the symptoms of low cholesterol?

People with low cholesterol levels will not typically show symptoms. If they have symptoms, this may be from low cholesterol or underlying illness related to low cholesterol. Some symptoms are the following:

  • Depression
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Fatty stool
  • Cognitive impairments in kids
  • Change in vision
  • Weight loss

Why are cholesterol numbers necessary?

Your cholesterol numbers help you to understand the possible risk of heart disease. Cholesterol can help the body to carry out important functions and having too high cholesterol levels in the blood may be bad for you. It can enter into the artery walls and cause atherosclerotic plaque.

The accumulation of plaque is what you call atherosclerosis causing serious problems such as:

  • Peripheral artery disease: it causes blocked flow of blood to your arms and legs.
  • Carotid artery disease: It blocks blood flow to the brain.
  • Coronary artery disease: It blocks blood flow to the heart.

Cholesterol travels through the blood and becomes plaque in due course. You may not even notice its presence over a longer period. There may not be any symptoms until a stroke or heart attack. This is the time when plaque can cause extreme damage to the body.

You can live with higher cholesterol for many years without knowing about it. So, it is essential to check the cholesterol numbers daily. When your cholesterol numbers are very high, this is already a red flag for you to visit your healthcare provider. Higher cholesterol can be a major risk factor for heart ailments. By detecting problems at an early stage, there are opportunities for you to make the necessary changes to your diet and get your cholesterol to a healthy level.

What is the impact of lower cholesterol?

Lower cholesterol may have several effects and help the body to prepare Vitamin D, steroid hormones like cortisol and sex hormones such as testosterone and estrogen. It may even affect the synthesis of these chemicals and can allow the body to produce bile which is essential for absorbing Vitamins A, D, E and K.

Different functions of the body may not work properly when you have low cholesterol and this can affect nutritional status, metabolic rate and physical and mental health.

How often should you check your cholesterol level?

This will depend on several factors, according to your healthcare expert.

  • Age – The older you are, the more often it is necessary to check your cholesterol numbers.
  • Family record – If any of your family members have a heart ailment, you too might develop it at some point in life. You will have to conduct cholesterol tests more frequently when your family member has higher cholesterol or history of heart disease.
  • Risk factors for heart ailment – It is necessary to perform cholesterol tests more frequently when you have already been diagnosed with heart disease.
  • Sex assigned during birth – People who are assigned male at birth require frequent tests starting at a young age in comparison to female at birth.

What is the function of cholesterol?

Cholesterol has many important functions in your body including the following:

  • Help cell membranes form protective layers to control what can enter or leave the cell.
  • Helping the liver to produce bile which is needed for food digestion.
  • Supporting the production of certain hormones in your body including Vitamin D and sex hormones.

Why is it important to maintain a low cholesterol level?

It is important to keep the cholesterol level low and protect cardiovascular health. Increased levels of cholesterol, like low-density lipoprotein (LDL), are related to the growth of arterial plaque which narrows down blood vessels and improves the risk of heart disease and stroke. These illnesses are the main causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide.

Most people can efficiently control their cholesterol level by doing physical exercise daily, eating a heart-healthy diet and preventing excessive amounts of saturated and trans fats. Controlling cholesterol will reduce the risk of growing serious cardiovascular problems, increase the flow of blood and decrease the workload on the heart. Knowing how to eliminate cholesterol is a priority for the step towards maintaining health conditions and preventing deadly cardiovascular diseases.

What are 10 natural ways to lower cholesterol levels?

Restricting saturated fats in your diet by doing regular exercise and engaging in other healthy practices can lessen the amount of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) in your blood. Lipoproteins have cholesterol, fat-soluble vitamins and fat in the blood.

You will find these are of two kinds:

  • Low-density lipoprotein or LDL: Having higher levels of LDL or bad cholesterol can lead to cholesterol deposits in the blood vessel walls. This might be the reason for clogged arteries and increased risk of heart attack.
  • High-density lipoprotein or HDL: HDL or good cholesterol carries the cholesterol away from your blood vessel walls. Due to this, it can prevent the conditions which have been mentioned above.

The liver produces the amount of cholesterol needed by your body. Various factors might influence these levels which are the following:

  • your family record
  • whether you smoke
  • heavy consumption of alcohol
  • follow a sedentary lifestyle

Here are 10 ways to improve your cholesterol levels.

  1. Try to concentrate on monounsaturated fats

People suggest an overall low-fat diet for weight loss and it can help to manage the cholesterol level.

In contrast, taking a diet which is high in monounsaturated fats such as the Mediterranean diet can increase levels of healthy HDL and decrease the levels of harmful LDL.

Here are some sources of monounsaturated fats:

  • avocados
  • canola oil
  • nuts, such as almonds, cashews, and pecans
  • nut butters
  • olives
  • olive oil


  1. Prioritize polyunsaturated fats like omega-3s

Polyunsaturated fats lessen LDL cholesterol and decrease the risk of heart disease. It can also reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

Omega-3 fatty acids are a heart-healthy kind of polyunsaturated fat present in fatty seafood and fish oil supplements including:

  • deep sea tuna like albacore or bluefin
  • herring
  • mackerel
  • salmon
  • shellfish (to a lesser degree), including shrimp


  1. Restrict trans fats

Trans fats are unsaturated fats modified through a process known as hydrogenation. This makes unsaturated fats in vegetable oils extremely stable.

Your body handles trans fats in a different way than other fats. It increases LDL and total cholesterol while decreasing beneficial HDL.

Foods which have trans fats in them are:

  • fried fast foods
  • margarine and shortening
  • non dairy coffee creamer
  • pastries and other baked goods
  • some microwaveable popcorn
  • some pizzas


  1. Eat soluble fibre

Soluble fibre is a kind of fibre present in whole grains and plants. Prioritizing whole grains can reduce LDL cholesterol levels and have a protective effect against cardiovascular diseases.

Some sources of soluble fibre are:

  • beans and lentils
  • Brussels sprouts
  • flaxseeds
  • fruits
  • oat cereals
  • peas


  1. Exercise

Exercise is extremely beneficial for your cardiovascular health. It helps to improve physical fitness and prevent obesity, increase beneficial HDL and lessen harmful LDL.

Healthcare experts suggest doing 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise in a week to lessen cholesterol levels. Regular strength training with aerobic exercise can offer several benefits to your health.


  1. Maintain a healthy weight

Excessive weight or obesity increases the risk of developing high cholesterol levels. By losing weight, you will be able to lower your cholesterol levels.

Weight loss has a double benefit on cholesterol by reducing harmful LDL and increasing beneficial HDL. You will have to work with the doctor for a nutrient-dense diet and a suitable plan for weight management that will work best for you.


  1. Quit the habit of smoking

Smoking tobacco enhances the risk of getting heart disease in various ways, which include:

  • decrease in HDL
  • increase in LDL
  • affect cholesterol absorption and transportation
  • increase the buildup of cholesterol in your arteries

When you stop smoking, it can reverse these harmful effects. A private doctor might help you to draft a suitable plan and quit smoking which is best for you.


  1. Drink alcohol in moderation

Alcohol’s role in providing benefits for your heart is a controversial topic of discussion. When you consume alcohol in moderation, these drinks will increase good HDL cholesterol and decrease the risk of heart disease.

Drinking wine or any other alcoholic beverage won’t reduce your cholesterol or improve heart health. So, there is no link between alcohol and improved heart health.

If you have the habit of drinking, take only two drinks per day for males or one drink per day for females on the days you drink.


  1. Consider plant sterols and stanols

Different kinds of supplements can help to manage your cholesterol levels. Plant stanols and sterols are some plant versions of cholesterol as they resemble cholesterol and can be absorbed by your body like cholesterol.

Taking 1.5–3 grams of stanols or plant sterols regularly will lessen LDL concentration by almost 7.5–12%. Small amounts of sterols and plant stanols can naturally be found in vegetable oils and these are also added to butter substitutes and certain oils.


  1. Try different supplements

Certain kinds of supplements might improve cholesterol levels and promote heart health:

Fish oil has a high amount of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and omega-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). There are certain fish oil supplements which can increase LDL despite lessening triglyceride levels.

Psyllium is a kind of soluble fibre available in the form of a supplement. It can help to know how to reduce cholesterol levels.

Coenzyme Q10 is a food chemical which helps cells to produce energy. It is quite similar to a vitamin, except that your body can produce its own Q10, which prevents deficiency.

It is advisable to seek advice from a medical professional before changing or starting with supplement regimens.

What is the range of normal cholesterol?

A cholesterol level of not more than 200 mg/dL is considered normal. A total cholesterol of 200 to 239 mg/dL is borderline high. Similarly, a total cholesterol level of 240 mg/dL or more than that is high.

13 Foods to add to your diet for reducing cholesterol levels

Do you know changing the foods you eat daily can help to reduce cholesterol levels? It can improve the accumulation of fats into your bloodstream and adding foods to lower LDL, harmful cholesterol-carrying particles might contribute to artery-clogging atherosclerosis. This is the most effective way to know what to eat to lower cholesterol for your better health. Below are 13 foods to add to your diet for lowering cholesterol levels. 

  1. Oats – Eating oats can be a great way to lower your cholesterol level. All you need is a bowl of oatmeal or cold oat-based cereal for breakfast. It will provide you at least 1 to 2 grams of soluble fibre. Include strawberries or bananas and follow guidelines of nutrition for getting at least 20 to 35 grams of fibre in a day.
  2. Barley– Along with other whole grains, oat bran and barley can lessen the risk of heart disease through the soluble fibre they deliver.
  3. Beans – Beans have a high amount of soluble fibre and they require some time for the body to digest, meaning your stomach will be full for a longer time after eating a meal. This is why beans are a good food for folks wanting to lose weight. Having varied choices from kidney beans to black-eyed peas, garbanzos, lentils and beyond, there are many ways to prepare them.
  4. Eggplant and okra– These low-calorie vegetables are good sources of soluble fibre.
  5. Nuts– Eating peanuts, almonds, walnuts and other nuts are beneficial for your heart health. When you take 2 ounces of nuts daily, it may slightly reduce LDL as nuts consist of extra nutrients for protecting the heart in different ways.
  6. Vegetable oils– Adding vegetable oils such as sunflower, canola, safflower, and other than butter or shortening when cooking can reduce LDL.
  7. Eating fruits– Citrus fruits, grapes, strawberries and apples have a rich amount of pectin in them. This is a kind of soluble fibre for lessening LDL.
  8. Foods with sterols and stanols– Certain foods have sterols and stanols in them which are extracted from plants for the ability of your body to absorb cholesterol from food. These are available in the form of supplements and taking 2 grams of plant sterols or stanols in a day can reduce your LDL cholesterol by almost 10%.
  9. Soy– Eating foods, soya beans and soy milk are a great way to reduce cholesterol levels. This effect will be more effective when you consume 25 grams of soy protein in a day and lower your LDL by around 5% to 6%.
  10. Fatty fish– Eating fish at least two or three times a week can lessen your LDL in two ways. This can be done by replacing meat consisting of LDL-boosting saturated fats and delivering LDL-lowering omega-3 fats. Omega-3s may lessen triglycerides in your bloodstream and protect the heart by preventing the onset of abnormal heart rhythms.
  11. Fibre supplements – These supplements provide the least effective way to obtain soluble fibre. You need two teaspoons of psyllium daily which is present in Metamucil and other bulk-forming laxatives to provide nearly 4 grams of soluble fiber.
  12. Dark chocolate – Having dark chocolate and cocoa can help to reduce LDL cholesterol. There are various components present in cocoa to manage your cholesterol. Chocolate has a high amount of added sugar which may negatively affect your heart health. You should use cocoa alone or dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 75-85% or higher than that.
  13. Garlic – Garlic contains several powerful plant compounds like allicin. Garlic can help to reduce LDL and total cholesterol. A large amount of garlic is needed to attain it. So, Garlic supplements seem to be more effective than other garlic preparations.


What can lessen cholesterol quickly?

Various changes in your lifestyle may help to lessen your cholesterol level within 30 days including:

  • eating a well-balanced diet
  • exercising daily
  • restricting intake of alcohol when you drink
  • quit the habit of smoking

You might even consider taking certain supplements but always speak with a healthcare provider before changing or starting your supplement regimen.

What are 5 foods that can reduce cholesterol levels?

Though food companies advertise products having low cholesterol levels, dietary cholesterol has a small influence on the amount of cholesterol present in your body.

Some foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, monounsaturated fats or soluble fibres may help to reduce cholesterol levels including:

  • fatty fish, like herring, mackerel and salmon
  • oat cereals and oatmeal
  • oils like canola oil and olive oil
  • vegetables such as Brussels sprouts
  • nuts such as walnuts and almonds

What are the 5 signs of higher cholesterol?

There are generally no symptoms of higher cholesterol. But some signs or symptoms of high cholesterol include:

  • high pressure
  • swelling areas around the back of the ankle, knuckles or knees
  • small yellow bumps near the corner of the eyes
  • corneal arcus which is a white ring around the iris of the eye
  • heart attack or stroke

Can eggs increase your cholesterol level?

Eggs have cholesterol and managing your cholesterol is not only about cholesterol in the food you are eating. When you eat foods with cholesterol, it may not increase your blood cholesterol level. Eggs may be part of your balanced and healthy diet. But when you are at risk for getting cardiovascular disease, you may want to restrict the number of eggs you eat in a week.

Key Takeaways

Cholesterol has essential functions in the body though it may cause clogged arteries and heart disease when you do not manage it properly.

If your cholesterol level is higher, certain lifestyle changes seem to be the first line of treatment. Make sure you know what causes cholesterol to lessen it in the right way.

Unsaturated fats, plant sterols, stanols and soluble fibre may help to increase good HDL and decrease bad LDL. Besides, regular exercise and weight loss can also be of great help in reducing your cholesterol levels for a healthy heart.