According to the most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 29 million U.S. adults have cholesterol levels that exceed 240 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter). In addition, similar research indicates that 55% of U.S. adults (that’s 43 million) are currently taking some form of medication to lower high cholesterol. Causes of high cholesterol may include several well-known risk factors, such as:
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Diets rich in saturated fats
Leaving high blood pressure unmanaged is linked to several adverse health issues—including stroke and cardiovascular disease (heart attack or coronary heart disease). These conditions may develop when cholesterol, a waxy substance within the blood, and triglycerides exceed healthy cellular levels and form deposits (known as low-density lipoproteins or LDL) along artery walls (atherosclerosis), which may dislodged as clot and prompt a stroke or heart attack. While high cholesterol often doesn’t display symptoms right away, a blood test at your doctor’s office can determine if you’re in the dangerous range. If so, aside from any prescribed medications from your doctor, you can do your part to reduce high cholesterol naturally by:
1. Taking up regular exercise
Due to the simple fact that excess weight or obesity can contribute to high blood pressure, it makes sense that making a conscious effort to exercise for 30-minutes to an hour per day, every day can help reduce weight and lower high cholesterol at the same time. Exercise need not be impactful. Instead, take up walking, hiking, cycle to work, swimming, or yoga.
2. Consuming a healthier diet
Diets rich in saturated fats, mostly found in animal products (i.e., red meat, butter, trans fatty oils, fried and processed foods, etc.) contribute to excess LDL “bad” cholesterol. So swap your usual trans fatty favorites (i.e., butter for olive oil and lean ground chicken for ground beef). Adopt a heart healthier diet by increasing your intake of healthy fats (i.e., omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids), soluble fiber while cutting out most of the trans fats in your diet (i.e., red and organ meats, cakes, pies, pastries, cookies, butter and margarine, snack foods like chips and crackers, fried fast foods, etc.).
3. Quitting smoking
If you smoke, another easy way to lower cholesterol is to butt out! Smoking increases LDL “bad” cholesterol, however, smoking cessation lowers bad LDL and actually increases HDL “good” cholesterol levels within a matter of weeks. Studies from the American College of Physicians indicate that after ceasing smoking for 1 to 2 years, cholesterol and risk of heart attack virtually disappear.
4. Using alcohol in moderation
Drinking as well as smoking impacts heart health and cholesterol levels. For instance, research indicates that while moderate alcohol consumption can maintain levels of HDL “good” cholesterol throughout the body, excessive drinking causes a spike in LDL “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides.
5. Reduce stress
While chronic stress has many detrimental effects on the body, research from the University of California, San Francisco indicates that unhealthy habits (i.e., lack of sleep, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, etc.) adopted as coping mechanisms for stress can cause high cholesterol. In response to stress, the body releases certain stress hormones (cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine), which tax the body by increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and increase the natural production of fatty acids and glucose.