Cholesterol comes in two forms, bad cholesterol which is LDL or low density lipid form and the good HDL or high density lipid form. Both types of cholesterol are needed by the body for a variety of reasons including proper cell formation as well as lubrication and cushioning. However, the amount we need is very small compared to the amount the average person consumes, especially in the western world. There are many pharmaceuticals that have been developed that will lower an individuals total cholesterol level, but they all have health risks that must be weighed against their benefits. The preferred method of lowering bad cholesterol levels in the bloodstream involves proper nutrition, exercise and stress management. All three of which have been shown to drastically reduce LDL cholesterol levels in individuals without the need for drugs.
Goals for Cholesterol levels include lowering bad cholesterol (LDL) below 130 mg/dl, keeping HDL or good cholesterol above 40mg/dl and reducing the overall cholesterol count below 150mg/dl. Another important goal is to keep your ratio of bad to good cholesterol below 3:1. These goals can easily be achieved over a few months by actively working at improving your overall health by increasing your activity levels and improving your diet.
1. Exercise – Thirty minutes a day, three to four times a week will greatly reduce your LDL cholesterol while increasing your HDL cholesterol and at the same time your overall cholesterol count will be reduced. This occurs because your body will use LDL cholesterol to build more muscle cells following a workout. Also exercise reduces the levels of certain hormones in the body including testosterone and estrogen. Both of these hormones require cholesterol to create, so as your body is making more of the hormone, they are using up free LDL cholesterol.
2. Increase levels of dietary fiber. Most beans, fruits, vegetables and grains contain ample amounts of fiber. The fiber you consume will trap cholesterol and carry it out of the body before it is absorbed into the bloodstream by the small intestines.
3. More fish, less beef. Just like there is a good form of cholesterol and a bad form of cholesterol, there are also good fats and bad fats. Bad fats mainly come from red meat and and partially hydrogenated oils. Good fats come from certain oils like olive oil and also from certain types of fish, most notably salmon. The fat found in these foods is called Omega-3 fatty acid, and it will actually lower the LDL that circulates in the bloodstream.
4. Antioxidants. Antioxidants are chemicals found in fruits and vegetables that act in the body to prevent a chemical reaction known as oxidation. While antioxidants have many health benefits, one of the most important ones is the prevention of plaque formation inside the arteries. Bad cholesterol (LDL) molecules bind together as they float through the bloodstream. After they become large enough, they also begin to bind to the walls of the arteries, and this is a major cause of atherosclerosis. Antioxidants prevent the LDL from combining together and also from binding to the artery walls. While this does not significantly lower the LDL in the bloodstream, it does prevent the LDL from damaging the body.
There are many reliable and healthy ways to lower LDL cholesterol without resorting to pharmaceuticals. Drugs all have negative side effects when used, while the natural methods of lowering LDL cholesterol not only will give you positive health benefits of the lowered LDL cholesterol, but there are numerous other health benefits associated with eating these foods.