Learn how to lower cholesterol levels through simple and painless lifestyle changes that will leave you feeling younger and healthier than ever before.
Everyone knows that elevated cholesterol levels are a bad, and even deadly, sign, but few understand why and how to remedy the problem effectively. Cholesterol is a waxy material in cell walls that aids in the production of certain vitamins and hormones. When kept in proper balance, it is a useful and beneficial substance. Unfortunately, once levels of LDL, or “bad cholesterol,” reach a certain point it begins to accumulate in the body’s blood system as plaque. This can cause blockages, heart disease and hardened arteries, all of which require extensive medical treatment to alleviate.
Not all cholesterol is bad, however. In order to understand how to lower cholesterol, patients must first focus on increasing the helpful form, or HDL cholesterol, to reduce the damaging consequences of its sinister alternative.
This is usually a last resort by doctors, but there are several prescription drugs available that give more dramatic results faster than most other strategies combined. The most common medicines are statins, which can lower LDL cholesterol by as much as 50 percent. They come with risks, of course, including potential side-effects of muscle inflammation and liver damage, and are costly if not covered by insurance. Doctors prefer to explore more natural methods unless the patient is in immediate danger. Niacin and fibrates are also used to reduce cholesterol and are easier to obtain.
Smoking is a double blow against its victims. Regular smokers increase their risk of heart disease, which is only further compounded by escalated cholesterol levels. Furthermore, studies have shown that cigarettes lower the levels of HDL cholesterol, limiting a body’s ability to purge itself of LDL cholesterol. Giving up cigarettes is a wise move no matter what, but it should be a priority for those with high cholesterol.
Certain drinks can be beneficial to the heart and body. Alcohol, for example, raises HDL levels by as much as 10 percent when consumed in moderation. That’s not an excuse to overindulge, of course, but a glass of wine or a beer a day often does more good than harm. Even better, green tea, long touted as an anti-aging beverage, will directly lower LDL cholesterol without the potential ramifications of alcohol.
Eat the Right Foods
The human body is capable of producing all of its own cholesterol. Everything else acquired from external sources is unnecessary, but not a problem when taken in at a reasonable pace. The average American diet today, though, is far too high in the saturated fats that lead to LDL cholesterol. The trick is to not only avoid those foods, but also to consume more helpful foods that supply HDL cholesterol.
Fibrous diets are advisable for a number of reasons, but they also remove cholesterol from the body. Fiber acts like the rough side of a sponge as it travels through the stomach and intestines, scraping off anything trying to linger and cleaning out the digestive system. Most Americans do not get enough fiber from the highly processed flours and starches so popular today. Beans, grains and vegetables are an easy way to incorporate more fiber in meals.
When it comes to meats, leaner is better. The trouble with eating other animals is that they are chock full of saturated fats. Choosing meats like fish and chicken may not be quite as satisfying as a rack of ribs, but they are much healthier.
Avoid the Bad Foods
Speaking of saturated fats, they should be avoided like the plague. When discovering how to lower cholesterol, many people are disheartened to learn that steaks and hamburgers are off the table, though lean ground beef is still an acceptable option. As a basic rule, the redder the meat the worse it is in terms of cholesterol. Those who cannot give up beef entirely should consider purchasing grass-fed meat instead, which is naturally much leaner than that of cows fattened up in a feed-lot.
So much of the literature surrounding cholesterol deals with what patients put into their bodies, but there is also a tangible benefit to be gained through physical activity. Cardiovascular exercise strengthens the heart, increases HDL levels and lowers LDL. A brisk walk is better than nothing, but for the best result individuals should spend at least half an hour a day performing a more strenuous workout such as jogging.
Fighting cholesterol is a long and arduous process that often means changing an entire lifetime of habits, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. By embracing these better practices, individuals can live happier, longer lives without the grim specter of heart disease looming over each occasional burger or lazy day.
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