10 Ways to Lower Your High Cholesterol
Cholesterol is far too often misunderstood and may have been given a bad reputation. Though, it is important to keep it in check, there are things you should know. Keeping your cholesterol at healthy levels could be as easy as changing what you eat, exercising, or adding a supplement. Keep in mind that a healthy diet and supplements work best when paired with a healthy lifestyle with plenty of sleep and exercise.
What is Cholesterol?
It is a naturally occurring substance that is made by the liver and is required by the cells in the entire body to function as well as nerves and hormones. However, in excess, the body begins to build up fatty plaque on the walls of arteries which decreases the blood flow to organs. If this plaque continues to build up, it can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is found in every cell in the human body. Cholesterol is also found in foods that come from animal sources. It is an organic molecule, a sterol which is a type of lipid. It is bio-synthesized by all animal cells and is an important structural component for cell membranes in humans. Cholesterol is also responsible for strengthening the walls of cells, conducting nerve impulses through the spinal cord and brain, making skin resistant to chemicals, and helping the skin convert sunlight into Vitamin D.
Cholesterol is misunderstood, however. We are told that if we have high levels of cholesterol, we need to lower it. However, it is not simply cholesterol levels that are important, but rather the TG/HDL level that matters. There are other organs and other factors to consider as well. Seventy-Five percent of cholesterol is produced by the liver which is influenced by insulin levels. So, if you keep your insulin levels ideal, you will automatically optimize cholesterol.
The cholesterol should ideally be kept at about a 2:1 ratio. The medical charts that are used show a desirable total cholesterol should be below 200 mg/dL, and anything over 240 mg/dL is considered high. Individually, this number should be made up of LDL levels that are below 100 mg/dL and below 70 for those at very high risk for heart disease, HDL levels at 60 mg/dL and above, and Triglycerides below100 mg/dL for an optimal reading.
LDL v HDL
Cholesterol travels through the blood on proteins called lipoproteins and is categorized by a couple different types: LDL and HDL. Some types of cholesterol are essential for good health. Your body needs cholesterol to perform important jobs such as making hormones, Vitamin D, digesting food, and building cells. LDL, Low-Density Lipoprotein, sometimes referred to as the bad cholesterol, makes up most of our body’s cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol raise our risk for heart disease and stroke. HDL, High-Density Lipoprotein, sometimes referred to as the good cholesterol, carries cholesterol back to the liver. The liver then flushes it from the body, eliminating it with bile acids through the gall bladder and intestines. High levels of HDL cholesterol can actually lower our risk for heart disease and stroke.
Oxidation May Be the Real Problem
Coronary disease is the leading cause of deaths in America. Research has shown that people who have died from a heart attack did not necessarily have high cholesterol. Cholesterol is not the demon. In fact, a study by he Jichi Medical School Cohort Study revealed that low cholesterol is associated with mortality from stroke, heart disease, and cancer. This is where it all gets tricky and often misconstrued.
LDL cholesterol is not dangerous until it is oxidized when it converts to a substance called oxysterol. LDL cholesterol molecules are particularly susceptible to oxidation. Oxidation alters the quality of cholesterol by stripping the electrons from molecules. These molecules then attempt to normalize their electron bonds by stealing electrons from other molecules creating a chain reaction oxidizing neighboring LDL molecules in the process.
What causes oxidation?
A number of factors can contribute to oxidation, including:
Eating too much or too late
Low anti-oxidant diet
Stress causing adrenaline shifts
Sweets, Insulin shifts from carbs and sweets
The Cholesterol Medical Tests
It is important to be screened for oxidation. Medical Doctors rarely screen for this, leaving it to be undetected until most of the LDL has already become dangerous oxysterol. Cholesterol, HDL, LDL, Triglycerides, ApoB all must be checked when checking for cholesterol levels.
ApoB may actually be a better predictor for heart disease risk. ApoB is ApolipoproteinB.
Cholesterol in and of itself cannot dissolve in the blood. It needs to be carried through the bloodstream by transporters called lipoproteins, Lipids and Proteins. Lipoproteins got their name because they are made up of fats, lipids, such as cholesterol, triglycerides, and proteins. The ApoB containing lipoprotein particles that are the most damaging to our arteries include not only LDL cholesterol but also remnants of chylomicrons and VLDL very low density lipoproteins. All three, LDL, VLDL, and chylomicrons, promote atherosclerosis. Elevated levels of ApoB correspond to elevated levels of LDL-C and to non-HDL-C and are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. These elevations may be a result of a high-fat diet or decreased clearing of LDL from the blood.
Abnormal levels of ApoB can also come from underlying conditions or other contributing factors. For example, ApoB may be increased from diabetes, use of androgens, beta blockers, diuretics, or progestins, synthetic progesterones. Hypothyroidism, nephrotic syndrome kidney disease, and pregnancy since levels temporarily increase in the woman until delivery. ApoB levels may be decreased with with conditions that affect lipoprotein production or those which affect its synthesis and packaging in the liver. Lower levels are seen with secondary causes such as hyperthyroidism, malnutrition, Reye syndrome, severe illnesses, surgery, cirrhosis, weight reduction, use of estrogen, lovastatin, simvastatin, niacin, and thyroxine.
- According to the CDC Center for Disease Control, close to one-third of American adults have high cholesterol with less than half seeking medical treatment.
- High blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, obesity and smoking are key risk factors for developing heart disease. Approximately half of all Americans, 49%, have at least one of these risk factors.
Foods to Avoid
To lower LDL and ApoB, eat less saturated fats such as butter, palm oil, coconut oil, meat and milk fats. Avoid trans fats like margarine, vegetable shortening, and partially hydrogenated oils canola oil. Avoid alcohol, and eat less refined sugars especially fructose or refined grains found in white flour. Foods to avoid include sugar, refined carbohydrates, trans fats found in processed foods, excessive amounts of caffeine that exceed more than one or two cups of coffee per day, and alcohol with the exception of possibly one glass of red wine a day.
Foods That Help
Eat foods rich in Vitamin C. Eat more fiber-rich foods, especially soluble fiber from beans, yams, oats, barley, and berries. If you are sensitive to gluten, choose grains that do not contain gluten. Juice celery, Swiss chard, dandelion, and zucchini and drink it on an empty stomach for couple of months. Or you can drink the mixture couple of days in a week on a continuous basis.
Additional foods that help include:
- Olive oil is packed with heart-healthy unsaturated fats
- Vegetables are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber which support a healthy heart while being low in calories
- Nuts provide fiber along with healthy fats
- Seeds like flax seed are fantastic for reducing total and LDL cholesterol
- Salmon is loaded with healthy Omega-3 fatty acids
- Okra is high in fiber, potassium and antioxidants
- Beans and legumes such as lentils, beans and peas
- Sweet potatoes
- Green tea is packed with antioxidants and catechins
- Persimmon is a citrus fruit that has fiber shown to reduce cholesterol
- Avocado is a potassium-rich food that provides fiber and healthy fat
- Buckwheat, quinoa, brown rice and other whole Grains that are gluten-free, since gluten can be highly inflammatory
Most cholesterol in the body is found in the myelin sheaths that surround the axons of nerve cells to protect the cells and facilitate a fast transmission of electrical impulses to control thoughts, movements, and sensations. The brain actually has a high level of cholesterol in it to function with about 25 percent found in the brain. However, the brain has to produce its own cholesterol, since the blood-brain barrier prevents cells from getting it from the blood. With this in mind, a cholesterol-lowering drug that was prescribed in the 1960s was linked to suicides and other deaths which led to more research on the cholesterol-brain/mood connection which discovered a clear link between low cholesterol and violent death. But, even if it doesn’t go to that extreme, low cholesterol levels have been linked with depression.
Herbs and Vitamins that Help
Vitamin C has shown some excellent benefits. Two-time Nobel Laureate and pH D Linus Pauling along with Matthias Rath, M.D. developed the Unified Theory of heart disease which identified Vitamin C, L-lysine, and L-proline as crucial nutritional agents to improve blood vessel function and reduce cholesterol plaques, blockage, which is the body’s backup means of attempting to repair damaged blood vessels. The Unified Theory views cholesterol, homocysteine, C-reactive protein, and Lp(a) as the body’s dire attempt to save itself revealing that the “bad guys” are really markers of malnutrition which gets worse when the body is under stress. Some researchers have called Vitamin C nature’s perfect statin. Most animals naturally produce Vitamin C and show no signs of cardiovascular disease. Humans, on the other hand, need to rely on diet and supplemental means of acquiring the vitamin.
Additional herbs and vitamins that may prove beneficial include:
- 1000-2000 milligrams a day of fish oil with Omega-3 fatty acids, 200-300 mg a day of CoQ10, 1500 mg a day of niacin, 1200 mg a day of red yeast rice, and 500 mg a day of garlic.
- Support your liver by doing liver detoxes and taking herbs. If you’ve ever thumbed through pictures of cholesterol stones on a liver cleanse website, you will immediately notice that the liver processes a lot of cholesterol in our bodies.
- Turmeric, or curcumin, may reduce levels of total and LDL cholesterol.
- Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that protects against the formation of atherosclerotic plaques and reduces total cholesterol levels.
- Niacin, B3 lowers total cholesterol, LDL, and triglyceride levels while rising HDL.
- Vitamin B12 reduces homocysteine levels which could increase heart disease risk by damaging the lining of the blood vessels and enhancing blood clotting.
- Coenzyme Q10 CoQ10 which is a fat-soluble nutrient present in the mitochondria of almost every cell. It is an essential factor for cellular energy production and is a powerful free radical scavenger.
- Sterols, plant fats, have a chemical structure similar to cholesterol and may act as stand-ins for cholesterol to block its absorption.
- Fish oils from cold-water fish provide Omega-3 fats EPA and DHA to help support normal heart rhythm, reduce inflammation, and reduce plaque in the arteries
- Hawthorn Berry Extract is a powerful tonic herb that supports muscle strength in the heart.
- Garlic is a powerful antioxidant that possesses wide-ranging cardiovascular health benefits.
- N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine is derived from the amino acid cysteine and helps boost levels of glutathione, one of the most powerful cellular antioxidants.
- Alpha Lipoic Acid, an antioxidant and important co-factor in the production of cellular energy, helps control high blood pressure, and helps to control cholesterol.
- Soy Isoflavones may decrease LDL and triglyceride levels while increasing HDL.
- Grape Seed Extract may block the effects of cholesterol-producing enzymes and is an antioxidant.
In the digestive system, cholesterol is important for the production of bile to help break down foods and absorb nutrients into the intestines. When the body breaks down cholesterol, its components return to the liver for reprocessing. If you have too much cholesterol in the bile, the excess forms into crystals and then hard stones inside the gallbladder. Cholesterol synthesizes these bile acids. Most cholesterol is produced by the liver and does not come directly from the food we eat. Since it is mostly produced in the liver, it’s very important that the liver be healthy. When it is functioning properly, the liver will produce more HDL which is needed to clean up the other cholesterol circulating in the blood.
Essential Oils that May Help
Add a few drops of lavender, cypress, rosemary oils in a diffuser, or use a carrier oil for a massage to decrease stress and cortisol levels, boost heart health, promote circulation and provide antioxidant properties. Lavender has been shown to relax and lower blood pressure while cypress promotes circulation, and rosemary oil is rich in antioxidant that can reduce blood lipid levels and help stabilize blood sugar.
Cholesterol is sometimes thought of as the body’s reaction to stress. Higher levels of stress indirectly increase the bad cholesterol. Cortisol is said to be the stress hormone. The more anxiety, anger, or restlessness we produce, the higher the LDL and triglyceride levels tend to follow. Possibly, this happens because our bodies go into a fight-or-flight mode when we are stressed which produces cortisol and adrenaline. When the energy is left unused, it gradually begins to accumulate as fat tissue. The unused sugars that are produced under stress are gradually converted into triglycerides or other fatty acids. Stress also increases inflammation.
Staying calm and maintaining happiness is very important in controlling cholesterol levels. Many do this through 45 minutes of exercise at least three times a week, 15-20 minutes of meditation or prayer every day, and getting plenty of sleep.
Hormones that Affect or are Affected
High cholesterol levels might, in reality, be a symptom of hormone deficiency. When hormonal imbalances are treated, cholesterol often balances out. As always, balance is the key.
Hormones need cholesterol. Vitamin D is one of them. This hormone is produced by the kidneys and controls blood calcium concentration as well as boosts the immune system. Cholesterol is the building block of steroid hormones, including cortisol which is often called the stress hormone, the male and female sex hormones of testosterone and estrogens. Studies have revealed that during a woman’s menstrual cycle, HDL cholesterol levels go up while LDL levels go down. Before menopause, progesterone increases LDL and estrogen protects the heart by raising the levels of HDL. In studies done with mice, when the hormone ghrelin is increased, cholesterol levels go up as well. Additionally, thyroid hormone levels with hypothyroidism increase cholesterol. While, hyperthyroidism causes cholesterol levels to drop too low.
https://www.westonaprice.org/oiling-of-america-in-new-york/ From Mary Enig, PhD, and Sally Fallon in The Oiling of America, printed in The Weston A. Price Foundation website.