17 Tips to Quickly Reduce Your High Cholesterol without Medication
Do you have too high cholesterol? And do you want to lower your cholesterol in a natural way without cholesterol-inhibiting medicines, such as statins? Then this article is written for you!
There is not as much controversy about nutrition and healthcare as about cholesterol and heart disease and how the risks are related to the diet.
For example, some doctors are convinced that the lowering of cholesterol should be done through medication, while other doctors do not agree with this.
There has been a huge amount of research into cholesterol and the relationship with cardiovascular disease in recent decades.
The most important studies will be discussed in this article and you will also gain more insight into lowering high cholesterol.
This is what you will discover:
- What doctors say about cholesterol-inhibiting drugs
- What doctors say about cholesterol-inhibiting drugs
- How often too high cholesterol occurs in most western countries
- How often cardiovascular diseases occur in most western countries
- 12 scientifically proven dietary advice which is good for your cholesterol
- And much, much more …
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is an essential building material of the body. We could not live without cholesterol.
It is the building block of steroid hormones, bile and vitamin D. Cholesterol is a fatty substance.
On the image opposite, you can see how a cholesterol molecule is built up.
Steroid hormones are caused by changes in the cholesterol molecule. Testosterone, estrogen, cortisol and aldosterone are examples of steroid hormones.
Cholesterol we get for a small part through the food inside. Most of our cholesterol is produced in the body, especially in the liver, after which it is released into the blood.
The liver is able to regulate cholesterol levels, but to a certain extent.
Before the cholesterol is delivered to the blood it is packaged in lipoproteins (VLDL). This is necessary to transport it through the blood to the places in the body where cholesterol is needed. This is because cholesterol is a fat and therefore not soluble in water.
For transport, cholesterol is packaged in small globules of lipoproteins which consist of triglycerides and cholesterol esters.
When we talk about cholesterol in relation to cardiovascular disease, we actually refer to these lipoproteins in which cholesterol is transported through the blood.
For example, the body also uses lipoproteins to transport fat-soluble vitamins through the blood.
We distinguish 3 types of lipoproteins. These are: LDL, HDL, and VLDL
LDL stands for Low-Density Lipoprotein. LDL is known as the “bad” cholesterol.
The terms bad and good cholesterol are not entirely correct. All cholesterol is the same, the difference is in the lipoprotein in which the cholesterol is packed. You could therefore also speak of ‘bad’ and ‘good’ lipoproteins.
arteriosclerosis. When transporting LDL to the blood vessels it could cause plaque, it easily settles in the walls of arteries.
LDL arises from VLDL due to the shrinkage of the VLDL due to the activity of the lipoprotein lipase.
LDL can be divided into two categories. In small dense LDL (sdLDL or pattern B) and large buoyant LDL (pattern A).
It is sdLDL which (under certain conditions) is associated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis.
HDL stands for High-Density Lipoprotein and is mainly formed in the liver.
HDL ensures that excess LDL cholesterol can be transported to the liver. It removes excess cholesterol from the vessel walls. After which the HDL can be reused or can be discharged via the stool.
The LDL cholesterol comes through the liver in the intestines after which it can leave the body through the feces.
HDL is also known as the “good” cholesterol.
VLDL stands for Very Low-Density Lipoprotein. It consists of cholesterol and triglycerides and serves to transport cholesterol through the blood.
What is high cholesterol?
Cholesterol is said to be too high if the cholesterol values mark an increased risk of arterial calcification (atherosclerosis). If the cholesterol levels are too high, you usually do not notice physical or mental symptoms.
17.9 million people die each year from CVD’s, an estimated 31% of all deaths worldwide. >75% of CVD deaths occur in low-income and middle-income countries. 85% of all CVD deaths are due to heart attacks and strokes.
Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are disorders of the heart and blood vessels and include coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, rheumatic heart disease and other conditions. Four out of five CVD deaths are due to heart attacks and strokes. More info you can find on the website of the World Health Organization.
The following values apply to the total cholesterol level:
- 5 mmol / L or lower = healthy
- 5 to 6.5 mmol / L = slightly increased
- 6.5 to 8 mmol / L = increased
- 8 or higher = greatly increased
The total cholesterol level is the total amount of cholesterol that is transported by different lipoproteins (LDL, HDL).
The total cholesterol level does not say anything about the lipoproteins that are in your blood.
The total cholesterol level is in itself a rather useless marker to determine the risk of cardiovascular disease. A high total cholesterol level says little about the risk of cardiovascular disease because this can also be caused by the good HDL lipoproteins.
To determine whether there is an increased risk, the LDL, HDL cholesterol level and triglyceride content are also examined.
The following values apply to LDL cholesterol:
- 1.8 mmol / L = target value for heart patients
- 2.6 mmol / L = an acceptable value for heart patients
- 2.6 to 3.3 mmol / L = a little too high
- 3.4 – 4.1 mmol / L = against the upper limit
- 4.11 – 4.9 mmol / L = too high
- 4.9 mmol / L or higher = alarmingly high
With a high LDL content, a lot of cholesterol is packed in LDL lipoproteins. A high LDL level is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
The following values apply to HDL cholesterol:
- 1 mmol / L = too low for men
- 1.3 mmol / L = too low for women
- 1.3 – 1.5 mmol / L = slightly too low
- 1.5 mmol / L or higher = good
With a low HDL content, little cholesterol is packed in HDL lipoproteins. A high HDL level is associated with a lower risk of atherosclerosis.
The following values apply to triglycerides (fats in the blood):
- 1.7 mmol / L or lower = good
- 1.7 to 2.2 mmol / L = increased
- 2.3 to 5.6 mmol / L = high
- 5.6 or higher = seriously high
Because HDL cholesterol carries LDL cholesterol, the cholesterol ratio between these two is important.
As you can see in the above values, LDL cholesterol should be low and HDL cholesterol high. Doctors, therefore, look at the ratio between LDL and HDL cholesterol.
The cholesterol ratio is calculated by dividing the total cholesterol level by the HDL content. The lower this value, the better.
The cholesterol level can be measured by means of a blood test.
For a good image, blood should be taken several times, because the cholesterol level fluctuates naturally.
Causes too high cholesterol
Too high cholesterol is almost always the result of someone’s lifestyle.
1 in 250 people worldwide have Familial Hypercholesterolemia (FH), the high cholesterol is hereditary so that it can be experienced at a young age.
Lifestyle factors that ensure high cholesterol are:
- Smoking (smoking lowers the good HDL cholesterol)
Other factors that can increase cholesterol are:
- Slow working pain gland
- Diabetes type 2
- Certain medications
Overweight and especially fat that is stored around the stomach increase the cholesterol level.
There is a correlation between a high BMI and a high total cholesterol level. The good HDL cholesterol will decrease with the higher BMI
The abdominal circumference (belly fat) also has a correlation with a high cholesterol level.
Alcohol is bad for the blood vessels and the heart. If your cholesterol is too high, you are advised to stop drinking alcohol at all.
If you drink 2 or more glasses of alcohol per day, your triglyceride level will increase, which is detrimental to your total cholesterol level.
A slow working thyroid gland
There is a correlation between a slow thyroid gland and a high cholesterol level.
Diabetes type 2
Diabetes type 2 patients have higher cholesterol levels than people without diabetes. Given that type 2 diabetes already involves an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, extra attention should be paid to cholesterol levels.
Some medications may have the side effect of increasing cholesterol levels. For example, prednisone is known to have a detrimental effect on cholesterol levels.
How often does high cholesterol occur?
Overall, Europe is the continent with the highest prevalence of the chronic disease, latest statistics show. Europe has the highest prevalence of high cholesterol in the world, with 54% for both men and women. High cholesterol or ‘bad’ cholesterol contributes to 2.6 million deaths per year, worldwide.
At a younger age, more men than women have too high cholesterol while this is the other way around later in life. This has to do with the transition after which the female body starts to produce less estrogen.
In the RIVM population screening, a value of 6.5 mmol / L cholesterol is seen as high, while the heart foundation assumes a value of 5.0 mmol / L or lower as normal and values of 5 to 6.5 mmol / L already labeled as slightly increased.
What doctors say about cholesterol-inhibiting drugs
Cholesterol is a substance that your body makes to fight inflammation.
High cholesterol levels should, therefore, be seen as a marker indicating that something is wrong in the body.
The cholesterol levels can be improved with the aid of cholesterol-inhibiting medicines, but it does not eliminate the cause of the high cholesterol levels.
Some doctors, therefore, wonder whether prescribing cholesterol-inhibiting drugs is the right solution. This group of doctors thinks that it should be better investigated why the body produces more cholesterol so that the problem can be resolved at the source.
If the cholesterol level is not too far removed from the values considered to be healthy, most doctors will only recommend adjustments to your lifestyle.
Only when the cholesterol levels are above a certain level you will also prescribe cholesterol-inhibiting medication.
Robert S. Greenfield, medical director of the MemorialCare Health System, is a proponent of statins and thinks that statins are better able to lower cholesterol than lifestyle changes:
“Diet and weight loss can lower total cholesterol between 10 and 20%. But the most powerful statins in their highest dose can lower cholesterol by 50%, “he says in a personal interview to Healthline (source).
Cholesterol inhibiting medications, however, have side effects that can be experienced as unpleasant. It would, therefore, be better if you could live without these drugs.
Quality-of-lifeHealthy lifestyle advice can have a cholesterol-lowering effect, about this more soon. If you strictly adhere to this lifestyle advice it is possible to lower your cholesterol levels naturally.
What you will actually achieve with this lifestyle advice is to eliminate the causes of high cholesterol.
Not only will you improve your cholesterol levels, but you will also reduce the risk of other diseases such as type 2 diabetes and you will improve the quality of your life, which is, of course, a pleasant side effect.
Medications can help to improve your cholesterol, but if you prefer to first make lifestyle changes to improve your cholesterol levels, try implementing these healthy changes:
Proven lifestyle advice for lower cholesterol
Before you can improve your cholesterol levels with this proven lifestyle advice it is important to rule out that your bad cholesterol values are not caused by a medical condition that has nothing to do with your lifestyle.
Slow thyroid gland
For example, a slow thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) is such a physical condition that can cause total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol to rise.
Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is a hereditary condition. The cause is a change in the DNA (hereditary material).
At FH the cholesterol level in the blood becomes too high. Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that is important in building the body, digestion and making hormones. The characteristics of FH differ per person.
There is a good kind, the HDL cholesterol, which brings cholesterol back to the liver; and the liver clears it from the blood.
And there is a bad kind, the LDL cholesterol. Normally, the liver ensures that sufficient LDL cholesterol can be removed from the blood. But with FH the liver does this insufficiently. Then there is too much LDL cholesterol in the blood. This can cause blockages in blood vessels. This can lead to cardiovascular problems.
If the blood vessels that supply the heart with oxygen are closed, a heart attack can occur. When this happens at the blood vessels in the brain, someone gets a cerebral infarction (stroke).
Cholesterol can also accumulate in tendons, at knuckles, on the back of the hand, and as a white ring around the iris of the eye. The cholesterol can also accumulate in yellow globules at the eyelids.
We can also say that more than 95% of all diseases that occur in humans are due to lifestyle. For example, lifestyle appears to be more than 200 times more important than the gene that is currently the most commonly associated with type 2 diabetes
Adapting your diet and / or lifestyle with the tips below could cause a significant drop in your cholesterol. So let your cholesterol check regularly if you follow the tips (fanatically). But under no circumstances stop on your own and without the guidance of a doctor with cholesterol-lowering medication.
17 tips to lower high cholesterol
The 4 most important tips for lowering your cholesterol are:
- Go lose weight
- Avoid refined carbohydrates and sugars
- Eat olive oil more often
- Eat an avocado every day
Tip # 1: Go lose weight!
Addressing excess weight is good for your cholesterol, according to research.
Various studies show that a weight loss of 5 to 10% causes lower cholesterol and a decrease in the risk of cardiovascular disease.
In some people, cholesterol may actually go up during weight loss. This can happen especially if you follow a diet with a large caloric restriction.
The cholesterol stored in the fat reserves cannot go anywhere except to the bloodstream. That fat is transported in the bloodstream as fatty acids and triglycerides.
This can interact with other substances in the bloodstream. This is usually temporary in nature. Keep an eye on your cholesterol levels.
Tip # 2: Avoid refined carbohydrates and sugars (+ the truth about saturated fat)
Anything that increases the amount of LDL cholesterol in your blood increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
It is, interestingly enough, not the saturated fatty acids that cause this. It is the refined carbohydrates and sugars that prove to be responsible for this.
Generation sugar A study from 2014 among 40,000 people found that people who ate the most sugar were 400% more likely to have a heart attack. A can of soda increases the risk of a heart attack by 30%! And here is another study that shows the correlation between carbohydrates and cardiovascular diseases.
We grew up with the idea that saturated fats are bad for us cholesterol. However, there appears to be no scientific link between the increase in the number of heart attacks and the eating of saturated fats.
The Keys study
That saturated fats are bad for your heart and vessels is mainly based on a research from your 60s.
An observation was made in this study. They looked at how many inhabitants of a country died of cardiovascular disease and how much saturated fat was eaten in that country.
Only 22 countries were able to find out how many inhabitants died of cardiovascular diseases. What people ate in those countries was an assumption based on food production in that country, without taking into account the export and import of food.
In this study, no correlation was found between eating saturated fat and cardiovascular diseases. The researchers scrutinized 6 countries in which this correlation was found. In this way, the assumption that saturated fat is bad can be substantiated. No account was taken of other lifestyle habits such as smoking, exercise and other eating habits such as eating a lot of sugar, carbohydrates, vegetables and fish.
However, this study was a study on which many health organizations and heart foundations based on their recommendations.
I can imagine that if you eat too much saturated fat that this is bad for you. But that is with everything you eat too much. There is often saturated fat in processed products, but I think the processing is unhealthy.
It is also not the case that saturated fat eating is good for your heart.
It is also not the case that saturated fat food is good for your heart and vessels. There is simply an insufficient correlation between eating saturated fat and cardiovascular disease to be able to say that this is bad or good for you.
Do you want to know more about it then I would recommend you to watch this video:
In this video, you can see how Dr. Peter Attia uses scientific evidence to show that saturated fats are not bad when claimed. In the video, dozens of studies on saturated fat, cholesterol and cardiovascular diseases are explained.
Tip # 3: Eat olive oil more often
Olive oil, which for a large part consists of the unsaturated fatty acids, has a positive effect on your cholesterol.
Research has shown that olive oil lowers LDL cholesterol. Another study showed that the use of olive oil reduced the need for cholesterol inhibiting drugs.
Use virgin olive oil (extra virgin). This is not heated to get the oil out of the olives. As a result, the olive oil has not oxidized and has retained its protective effect for our body cells.
If you are baking with olive oil, make sure that you do not overheat it, the olive oil will oxidize. Olive oil is not suitable for frying, then it gets too hot, making it harmful to your health.
Tip # 4: Eat an avocado every day
That avocados are healthy you probably already knew. They are a good source of unsaturated fatty acids and dietary fiber. They also help to lower your LDL cholesterol and increase your HDL cholesterol.
In a study, a group of overweight people were given avocados. A control group received no avocados. In the group that consumed avocados, the LDL content went down while this was not the case for the group that did not eat avocados.
Tip # 5: Eat legumes
Legumes such as beans, peas and lentils are also good for your cholesterol.
A meta-analysis of 26 studies showed that legumes significantly lower LDL cholesterol and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Another meta-analysis showed that legumes in the diet caused weight loss, without a calorie restriction being imposed. Another good reason to include enough legumes in your eating schedule.
Tip # 6: Eat fatty fish
Fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel are good for HDL cholesterol, against inflammation and they reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
salmon fish can best be eaten grilled, roasted, fried or raw. Deep-fried fish would increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
In a large study, young adults were followed for 25 years. It turned out that people who ate regularly (not fried) fish least developed the metabolic syndrome.
The metabolic syndrome includes a cluster of symptoms including low HDL values and high blood pressure.
In yet another study, it turned out that regular tuna or another (non-fried) fatty fish food reduced the risk of a heart attack by 27%. While regularly eating fried fish, this risk seemed to increase.
Omega 3 fatty acids are good for the health of heart and blood vessels. Therefore eat a fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring or tuna twice a week.
Tip # 7: Eat nuts
Nuts, almonds and walnuts in particular, are good for our health and our heart.
Walnuts are rich in healthy omega 3 fatty acids and are linked to a healthy heart.
Nuts also help regulate blood pressure. This study also revealed that eating a portion of nuts every day reduces the risk of a heart attack by 28%.
An analysis of 25 studies showed that the daily eating of 2 or 3 servings of nuts caused a reduction in LDL cholesterol.
Tip # 8: Eat dark chocolate and cocoa
Yes, it really is there. Chocolate and cocoa are good for your cholesterol, it not only lowers LDL cholesterol but also blood pressure.
Do not run right to the store to buy your favorite (milk) chocolate. In chocolate, too much sugar is processed which in turn is bad for your cholesterol.
You will therefore have to take pure chocolate in which the percentage of cocoa is at least 80% (preferably higher).
It is also good to choose raw chocolate. This chocolate has not been heated so that the antioxidants are much better preserved.
Raw cocoa contains 7 times as many antioxidants than regular chocolate. You can find raw (RAW) chocolate at the natural products / superfoods department.
Tip # 9: Wholemeal products
Wholegrain products, barley and oats in particular, are associated with lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease.
A large-scale meta-analysis of 45 studies showed that wholemeal consumption may be associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, respiratory diseases, type 2 diabetes and cancer.
Eating wholemeal products three times a day causes a reduction of 20% in heart disease or a heart attack. By eating more whole-grain products, the risk of cardiovascular disease decreased even further.
But keep thinking logically: a portion of vegetables is always better than a portion of whole-grain carbohydrates. Limit carbohydrate-rich food up to 1 or 2 times a day.
The better carbohydrate sources are oats and barley. These contain beta-glucans, which reduce the LDL cholesterol
Tip # 10: Garlic
Garlic is good for the heart and blood vessels because it lowers the blood pressure.
High blood pressure is, just like high cholesterol, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Is your blood pressure too high?
It could also lower LDL cholesterol, but the effect of garlic on LDL is only small.
For a protected effect for the heart, relatively large quantities of garlic are required. You could therefore use garlic supplements.
Tip # 11: Eat fruit
Fruit and berries are a nice addition to your diet to keep your heart healthy.
Fruit is rich in dietary fibers which help to lower your LDL values and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Pectin that occurs in fruits such as grapes, apples and strawberries can reduce cholesterol levels by up to 10%.
Berries such as blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and cranberries lower LDL and increase HDL cholesterol.
Tip # 12: Eat vegetables
Under the cup of fruit, you have already read that fruit rich in pectin lowers cholesterol. Vegetables such as eggplants, carrots, potatoes and okra are also rich in pectin.
Green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale contain lutein and other carotenoids which are incinerated by reducing the risk of heart disease.
This study suggests that lutein provides lower levels of oxidised LDL cholesterol and could prevent cholesterol from binding to the walls of the arteries.
Because vegetables are rich in dietary fiber, contain antioxidants and have few calories, they are a sensible choice if you want to keep your heart healthy.
Tip # 13: Soy products
A large meta-analysis showed that soy proteins had a positive effect on the blood values.
There was a decrease in LDL content and an increase in HDL content. Fresh soybeans proved to be more effective than soy supplements.
Tip # 14: Watch out with sugar
One study showed that fructose and HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) in particular (forms of sugar) increased triglyceride and ApoB (a marker for LDL) in the blood.
And that within 2 weeks for healthy and young participants who participated in the study.
Make sure that sugars are processed in foodstuffs under all kinds of hidden names such as fructose syrup, fruit sugar, glucose-fructose syrup. Look here for the complete list of sugar pseudonyms.
Ideally, you do not eat any sugar or foods that have sugars added.
The American Heart Association Nutrition Committee advises women not to eat more than 100 calories of added sugars in any case. For men, they have set this upper limit at 150 calories.
Tip # 15: Follow a low-carbohydrate diet
A study shows that following a low-carb diet reduces the risk of arteriosclerosis.
This study showed that following a low-carbohydrate diet resulted in lower triglyceride levels and an increase in HDL cholesterol.
In another study in which participants followed a low-carbohydrate diet, different markers and values improved. After 12 weeks, not only 10% excess weight had been lost, but insulin levels had dropped by 50%. The triglyceride values were decreased by 51%, HDL cholesterol was increased by 13% and the cholesterol / HDL-C ratio was improved by 14%.
And the striking thing about this study was that these values all improved while eating 3 times as much saturated fat!
Still not convinced of the positive effect of a low-carbohydrate diet on reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease?
Do you want to follow a low-carbohydrate diet?
If you dig deeper into the aforementioned studies, you will discover that a low-carbohydrate diet for a very small group of people actually causes an increase in cholesterol levels.
This can occur in a ketogenic diet or in paleo diet variants which are very rich in fats. If you want to follow these low-carbohydrate dietary forms then it is important to regularly test your blood.
Tip # 16: Exercise
Physically active belongs to a lifestyle that lowers cholesterol and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.
A study showed that high-intensity circuit training is the most effective way to lower blood pressure and improve lipoprotein and triglyceride levels.
Consult with your doctor first if you want to do high-intensity circuit training.
Research showed that aerobic physical exercise improved the metabolism and reduced inflammation.
Tip # 17: Stop smoking
There is now so much evidence that smoking is bad for the heart and blood vessels that there is no doubt about it. We will not go into this in more detail in this article.
Smoking is also associated with lower HDL cholesterol and a high risk of type 2 diabetes.
About cholesterol-rich foods
For years it was thought that cholesterol-rich foods, such as eggs, are the main cause of cardiovascular disease.
The cholesterol in our food, however, is only a small part of the cholesterol that is present in our body. There are 40 to 50 grams of cholesterol in our body, the majority of which is produced by our body itself.
It is also not the cholesterol that is bad for us, it is the ‘packaging’ in which the cholesterol is. Cholesterol is packaged in lipoproteins. It is the Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) which is bad for us.
A study showed that eating cholesterol does not cause cardiovascular disease.
The conclusion of this study was that recommendations about eating health organizations about eating cholesterol rich foods should be reconsidered.
Eggs, fish oil, liver, shellfish and sardines are cholesterol rich. Ironically, these foods are among the most healthy foods.
In addition to high cholesterol, there are many more factors that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Think of stress, diabetes, high blood pressure and smoking. In order to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, you will therefore need to pay attention to these risk factors in addition to your cholesterol level.
There has been an incredible amount of research into the relationship between cholesterol and cardiovascular disease over the past half century. In this article, we have tried to share the most important conclusions with you in understandable language.
There is much more to say about cholesterol than we have done here, there are even entire books written about it. The information you have read here is a summary of what can be said.
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