How to lower cholesterol is one of the first things that you look for after getting a heads up from your doctor. Which foods should I eat and which ones to avoid? How fast can I reduce cholesterol? Are there any natural remedies?
As you try to get a handle on your cholesterol levels, your head is already busy trying to figure it out all.
Well, Slow down! Before you get overwhelmed, learn the basics first. And from there on, chart your health journey to bring your cholesterol in healthy range.
So, here it is. First things first! Yes indeed, you can lower cholesterol level with completely natural ways.
High cholesterol levels is in fact a warning sign or early indicator of poor liver function and metabolic imbalances in the body. And if you address it right in the beginning, high cholesterol level may not be dangerous for you anymore!
By adopting your diet and lifestyle, you can reduce cholesterol, find relief from high triglycerides, poor lipid profile and lose weight (finally).
And we will get onto all of that in this post.
Firstly we will dig into what cholesterol is and is it really bad for you?
Then, we will look into symptoms and causes of high cholesterol. And finally, some highly effective Ayurvedic tips, healthy diet and lifestyle guidelines to reduce cholesterol. Let’s get started!
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is an essential ingredient to our survival! This may come as a surprise, as many of us are used to hearing that cholesterol is BAD for our body.
The truth is that it is one of the basic elements that provide structure to our body organs such as the skin, heart, liver, and even required for their maintenance in case of wear and tear. Our body needs it for multiple vital functions such as to:
- protect the nerves,
- build cell tissues,
- produce specific hormones,
- generation of vitamin D,
- and for the generation of some digestive enzymes
It is a waxy and fat-like substance and is present in all the cells of the human body. Unlike Glucose, it cannot move into our body on its own but has to be transported via carriers – The Lipoproteins (another structural element).
Our bodies can make all the cholesterol that we need. And, we can also get it from animal products such as milk, cheese, egg yolks, meat etc.
Good Cholesterol vs Bad Cholesterol
Cholesterol acts as a band-aid to repair the worn out or damaged cells in our body.
Our blood vessels or arteries will often get damaged when our blood has a high concentration of solids such as Fatty acids and Minerals (which happens due to poor eating habits and lifestyle choices).
There are two primary actions happening inside our body all the time to maintain the necessary cholesterol levels.
- Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDL) carry cholesterol to various body parts for regular or urgent needs – termed as the BAD-Cholesterol
- High-density lipoproteins (HDL) remove the excess cholesterol from different body parts and from the bloodstream – termed as GOOD-Cholesterol
In case of damage, LDLs start pouring in the cholesterol to patch up the damaged portion. This acts as a starting point of the plaque formation inside our vessels.
Hence, when your bloodstream contains undesired solids – plaques start to form on a regular basis and even grow in size, making your arteries narrow. This is the trigger point of further complications related to blood pressure and heart health.
While essentially, your body is only trying to fix the internal damage with LDL-cholesterol, they are also termed as the bad actors for general understanding.
High cholesterol is actually the presence of high levels of LDL in the bloodstream. In this article, we will refer to high levels of cholesterol as high LDL-Cholesterol levels.
What should be the normal cholesterol levels?
The perfect cholesterol-level should be maintained to reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Total cholesterol level – below 200 is best but depends on the HDL and LDL distribution profile
- Levels of LDL – below 130 is best, but this also depends on the risk of heart disease
- Levels of HDL – 60 or above it reduces the risk of heart disease
- Triglycerides – lower than 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) is best
Symptoms of high LDL – Bad Cholesterol
Generally, there are no signs or symptoms of having high LDL. However, having a poor cholesterol profile leads to health issues such as:
- Constant fatigue
- Heaviness and poor digestion
- Acidity, Bloating and Gas
- Skin problems
- Difficult in breathing
- Nutritional Deficiencies such as Vitamin D, Iron and Calcium
- Hormonal Imbalances
Diagnosis and Check for Cholesterol
People who have pain in the chest, heart attack, stroke or feel uncomfortable during walking should test their blood to know their LDL level.
The frequency of measuring the level depends on one’s age, risk factors, and family history. Here are general recommendations for testing LDL level.
For people aged 19 or younger:
- Initially, the test should be done between ages 9 to 11
- The test should be done following every 5 years
- If there is a family history of high blood LDL levels, heart attack, or stroke, children should have a test starting at age 2.
For people aged 20 or more:
- Younger adults may test their LDL in every 5 years
- Men, whose ages in between 45 and 65 and women, in between 55 to 65 should go for a test in every 1 to 2 years,
Reasons for high LDL – Bad Cholesterol
As the LDL levels in the blood increase, it will unite with other substances in the blood and forms plaque. The process, by which plaque is formed, is known as atherosclerosis.
Plaque sticks to the walls of the arteries, then make them narrow and ultimately blocks the arteries. Thus, it leads to coronary artery disease.
Besides the production of cholesterol in the liver, we also get it from certain foods. There are some foods which are rich in fats and too much eating of these foods increases our level. Here are the primary reasons:
- Poor eating habits – It is one of the main causes of a high level of bad fats in the blood. Some meats, dairy products, chocolates, deep-fried, baked and processed foods contain saturated fat. Besides these, some fried and processed foods are rich in Trans fats. Excess eating of these fats can increase the LDL (bad) cholesterol.
- Excessive Sugar intake: Excess sugar in your food through simple carbs and sugary foods is converted into LDL and triglycerides by liver.
- Poor liver function or Fatty Liver: Liver is the main site of fat metabolism and lipid generation. IF your liver is not functioning well as in case of fatty liver, then instead of metabolizing food, it ends up dumping it as low quality fats or LDL and triglycerides.
- High Belly Fat: This is the dangerous fat that is metabolically active. High belly fat can create and promote production of additional dump of low quality cholesterol as LDL.
- Lack of physical activity- Lack of physical activity can lead to high LDL. If we sit long hours without any exercise or physical activity, it may lower our HDL (good) cholesterol and increase LDL.
- Smoking- This is also another cause, which lowers HDL, and increases LDL.
- Heredity- Some people have high cholesterol due to genetics. Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is a hereditary cause.
- Medicines- Sometimes specific medicines cause high LDL.
Health problems related to high LDL
A large deposition of plaque in the arteries can rupture that part of the artery. In this area, there may be a blood clot and a large clot can stop blood flow in a coronary artery. When the blood flow slows down or blocked, you will have chest pain or heart attack.
Plaque is not restricted to a specific area; rather it can be formed in other arteries that take oxygen loaded blood to the brain and limbs. Therefore other health problems like stroke, carotid artery disease, and peripheral arterial disease occur.
Can we prevent high levels of LDL?
Healthy lifestyles always contribute good health. To decrease the LDL levels, one should follow a healthy eating plan, regular physical activity including yoga, exercises, and weight management.
For some cases, lifestyle changes alone may not decrease the risk of heart problems and high cholesterol. Depending on your health condition, you may have to take treatment under a specialist.
Ayurveda provides detailed list of herbs, diet, and lifestyle practices that help to improve fat metabolism and lower down high cholesterol levels.
How to Regulate and Lower Cholesterol Levels Naturally?
Now that you’ve gained all this understanding, you must have decided to be proactive about your blood cholesterol levels.
That is a good thing. And we are not going to let you go without pointing you in the right direction. So, here’s how to lower cholesterol levels naturally. Start today!
1. Foods and Diet that Reduce LDL and Triglycerides
If you’re going to do this cholesterol thing right, then you cannot afford to be too sloppy with your diet.
Eat a Kapha Balancing Diet
Lipids and cholesterol are a part of the meda dhatu (fat tissue). Fat, by the way, is under the jurisdiction of the Kapha dosha. Therefore, if you will keep your cholesterol levels in check, Ayurvedic medicine recommends that you keep your Kapha dosha happy.
How do you do that?
- Include a variety of fresh vegetables and make them the major portion of the meal.
- Eat fiber-rich foods like whole grains, seeds, fruits, vegetables, beans and lentils. Fiber can bind cholesterol and help excrete it, effectively lowering total and LDL cholesterol.
- Green leafy vegetables (spinach, moringa, methi, curry leaves), cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli), and sluphurus vegetables (garlic, onion, leeks) are specifically helpful to reduce cholesterol.
- Consume healthy fats from seeds and nuts like walnuts, and almonds, and fishes that contain Omega-3 fatty acid, such as salmon and herring, etc.
- Remove sugary foods from your diet. Sugar is a main driver of high cholesterol and inflammation. When you remove added sugar and simple carbs, you not only reduce the overload on your body but also give it a chance to carry out essential tasks as detoxification.
- Your breakfast should be light.
- Avoid night time meals. Practice early dinner, which is latest by 7 pm. This will help to provide ample time for proper digestion of the food.
- Remove extremely salty, deeply fried, stale, frozen and heavily processed foods.
- Make it a habit of eating a lesser amount of saturated fat-containing foods like red meat and dairy products.
Know How to select Healthy Fats in your Meal
There are healthy and unhealthy fats.
Healthy fats are unsaturated fats. Only include healthy fats in your meals. Below are sources of healthy fats:
- Nuts (almonds, pistachios, cashews, pecans, walnuts and hazelnuts).
- sunflower, sesame, flax seed and pumpkin seeds
- fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines) and fish oil
Remove Bad Fats from your Diet
On the other hand, there are bad and unhealthy fats. Bad fats are saturated fats and trans fats. Make it a habit of eating a lesser amount of saturated fat-containing foods. You should avoid these as much as you can.
- fatty meats and/or red meat
- processed meats such as sausage, bacon, cured meats
- processed butter (margarine)
- excess dairy products
- vegetable ghee (vanaspati)
- highly processed foods and snacks like cookies, donuts, cakes, french fries, hot dogs, etc.
What type of oil do you cook with?
Cooking oil can be a source of confusion for most people. Are they all bad? Should you avoid cooking with oil altogether.
That is not necessary if you know what oils are healthy for cooking. Just go give you an idea, here are some oils that will help regulate your cholesterol levels:
- Pure olive oil: add it to your meals after cooking.
- Pure peanut oil: for frying and less for regular cooking.
- Virgin coconut oil: for cooking
- Mustard oil: for cooking and frying
- Pure sesame oil: for cooking
Avoid Bad Cooking Oils
On the other hand, you should not cook with these oils:
- canola oil
- palm oil
- hard margarine
- refined oils
- vegetable oils
- Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils
2. Exercise to Lower Cholesterol
Regular exercise helps increase levels of good cholesterol, HDL. This isn’t just fiction. It is backed by research. In both men and women, physically active people have higher levels of HDL.
Researchers have also found that active people have different numbers and sizes of cholesterol particles. Theirs are more fluffy and are less likely to stick to and block blood vessels.
Obese people can also benefit tremendously from exercising. Exercise helps improve cholesterol levels, reducing the bad and increasing the good ones.
What exercises should you do then?
Run or jog
This doesn’t mean you should spring from block to block. The most effective way to do this is a long-distance run or jog. See if you can cover 10 miles in a week.
People who run long distances have better results managing cholesterol levels than those who sprint short distances.
If perhaps you can’t put yourself to running, then brisk walking can walk just fine. It seems to come down to a matter of endurance, whether you choose to run or walk, You should not walk a few blocks and sit.
However, you should still keep in mind that running is more effective.
Alternatively, try cycling or swimming. These also, like the others, improve cardiovascular health and cholesterol levels.
The above exercises are aerobic/endurance exercises. Resistance exercises like weight lifting are also extremely beneficial.
Your muscles use up a lot of energy. If you keep at it for some time, your sugar reserves are expended, and your body starts using fats to produce energy. Thus, excess cholesterol is burnt off.
Helpful Points to Note
You should exercise for at least 30 minutes daily. This should be for five days a week, if not daily.
Exercising requires endurance, but it doesn’t mean that you should subject yourself to gruesome punishments. Rest when you need to, and continue from there.
3. Yoga Poses to Lower Cholesterol
Yoga is an effective tool used by Ayurvedic medicine for treating health conditions. Cholesterol can also be regulated by yoga asanas. Here are some yoga asanas for high cholesterol:
- Kapalbhati Pranayama: This uses breathing exercises to detoxify the body. It also helps to increase the rate of metabolism to reduce weight. In addition, the yoga asana improves digestion.
- Chakrasana: This abdominal massage alleviates constipation. It also improves the functioning of the liver and thus getting rid of excess fat and cholesterol.
- Shalabhasana: It stretches the back, shoulders, and arms, while also improving digestion.
- Paschimottanasana: This pose stimulates the liver and kidneys, reduces obesity, and gets rid of excess fat from the abdominal region.
- Ardha Matsyendrasana: It has the similar effects as Chakrasana. Also, it improves the spine.
4. Healthy Lifestyle for Optimal Cholesterol Levels
You have to take responsibility for your overall health. This involves regulating your lifestyle to suit your health goals.
Lose Weight and Maintain a Healthy Weight
You might think, “Obviously.” And true, it is obvious. Excess fat is what causes weight gain most of the time. So, if you’ll keep your cholesterol levels in check, then you need to shed some extra weight.
You can lose weight and maintain a healthy weight thus:
- Skip that bottle of soda and get some water instead
- Avoid that calorie-packed snack that you don’t need.
- Take the stairs and give the elevator a break.
- Walk those few blocks and let the taxis be.
- Do more activities that require you to be on your feet, such as cooking, gardening, etc.
Quit Smoking and Alcohol
People who drink alcohol moderately have relatively better HDL. Those who do not drink at all have it even better!
HDL levels increase quickly when you quit smoking. Here’s what happens:
- Your blood pressure and heart rate recover from the cigarette-induced spike within 20 mins of quitting smoking.
- Blood circulation and lung function begin to improve within three months of quitting.
- Within a year of quitting, your risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker
Kapha Dosha Balancing Lifestyle
In addition to a Kapha diet, your lifestyle habits should be modeled to suit the Kapha dosha. Here are some lifestyle practices to balance Kapha dosha:
- Go to bed early and rise early too (before 6 am) to avoid Kapha increase.
- Do not sleep during the daytime.
- Learn new skills and add onto more experiences for regular mental stimulation.
- Go for an energetic and lively routine to promote stimulation.
- Prefer invigorating music, smells, and new experiences from sports or traveling to a new place.
- Practice self-massage, “abhyanga” with light and warm oils. Some examples are Mustard Oil, Sesame Oil, and flax seed oil. You can also do dry brushing or massage with herbal powders to melt off the excess body fat.
5. Ayurvedic Herbs to Reduce Cholesterol
Some Ayurvedic herbs are used for managing cholesterol and to produce healthier fat tissue and balance cholesterol production.
These herbs improve bile secretion and purify the blood (rasa dhatu), muscle (mamsa dhatu), and fat (meda dhatu) tissues. The best-known herbs for this are:
- Bhumi Amalaki,
- Indian Sarsaparilla,
Other effective herbs include:
- fenugreek or methi seeds
- coriander seeds
6. Natural Home Remedies for High Cholesterol
- Take half teaspoon trikatu mixed with one teaspoon honey. Do this twice before meals, twice a day. This helps burn ama (toxin buildup) and excess Kapha, thus regulating cholesterol.
- Drink one cup of warm water mixed with raw organic honey. This will help to ‘scrape’ off the fat from your system and reduce cholesterol levels. You could also add one teaspoon of lime juice or 10 drops of apple cider vinegar to make the drink more effective.
- Drink a tea made of one teaspoon cinnamon and one-fourth teaspoon of the herbal mixture trikatu. Steep it for 10 minutes in a cupful of water; add one teaspoon honey and drink. Take it about twice a day.
- Garlic is said to be the most effective in preventing high cholesterol. Mix one clove of fresh garlic chopped finely, half teaspoon grated ginger root, and half teaspoon lime juice; eat this mixture before each meal you take through the day.
Day One or One Day…You Decide! These Ayurvedic remedies to reduce cholesterol will work well for you if you stick to them and follow consistently.
Don’t rush it though! Take baby steps…and start with one thing at a time. Give yourself and your body time to adjust to the change that you are bringing in. Once, you are cool with the new thing, move on to the next step.
Now we would like to hear from you. Have you tried any of the above Ayurvedic remedies to reduce cholesterol? What worked for you and what was your experience? Do let me know in the comments below.
Or if you have any queries. Ping me here and I’ll get back the soonest. Wishing you vibrant health!