How to Improve Your Cholesterol Naturally

High cholesterol is the type of disease that can sneak up on you if you’re not careful. It is a leading cause of coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke. And, according to the American Heart Association, if you also smoke, have high blood pressure or diabetes, you’re at even greater risk for developing abnormal cholesterol and the diseases it can cause.

How to Improve Your Cholesterol Naturally 

But, there’s good news: High cholesterol can be controlled — and not just with medication. If you’re willing to make a few adjustments to your lifestyle, you can lower your LDL cholesterol naturally.


What is Cholesterol?


Cholesterol is a fat-like element produced naturally by the body. It is found in the cells and bloodstream and it comes in two different major types – LDL and HDL. LDL (low-density lipoprotein) is what is known as “bad” cholesterol. Having high levels of this type of cholesterol in your body can cause it to build up in your arteries, where it eventually causes the arteries to clog and restricts the flow of blood in various areas of the body. HDL (high-density lipoprotein) is what is considered “good” cholesterol. This type of cholesterol is responsible for carrying away LDL cholesterol. Having high HDL and low LDL levels lowers one’s risk for heart clogged arteries.


What are Normal Cholesterol Levels?


The healthy range for LDL cholesterol is between 70 and 130 mg/dL. But, if you have heart disease or another vascular disease or diabetes, then an LDL level below 70 mg/dL is desirable. The desired range for HDL cholesterol is above 40 mg/dL for men and above 50 mg/dL for women. An HDL level above 60 mg/dL is protective enough that it actually offsets another risk factor you might have.

Regular cholesterol screenings should start at age 35 for men and 45 for women. But, you will want to start earlier if you have cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more, a family history of early heart disease, or use tobacco products. If you don’t have heart disease or any other risk factors and your cholesterol is within the normal range, then you should have it checked at least every five years. If you have been diagnosed with high cholesterol, then a yearly checkup is recommended.

Fortunately, you can reduce your LDL levels by simply making a few different lifestyle changes. Here are a few dietary tips to help you lower your LDL cholesterol.


Eat Fewer Artificial Trans Fats


Trans fats that occur naturally in many meat and dairy products and are not considered to be unhealthy. Artificial trans fats, however, are harmful because they raise your LDL cholesterol and lower your HDL cholesterol. Unfortunately, artificial trans fats are typically found in some of your favorites, like fried foods (e.g., fries and doughnuts), icing, microwave popcorn, frozen pizza and baked items (cookies, biscuits, pastries, muffins and pie crust). These foods are also high in processed carbohydrates, which can raise your triglycerides, another risk factor for heart disease. Therefore, adults should limit their consumption of artificial trans fats. Fortunately, new laws are requiring all artificial trans fats to be removed from all foods by 2018.


Limit Processed Foods


Eating more natural foods and fewer processed products is beneficial to the body overall because processed foods contain large amounts of artificial ingredients and chemicals.


Dine Out Less Frequently


if you dine out often, you’re likely not eating as healthy as you could, especially if you’re frequenting fast food restaurants. Instead, prepare healthy meals at home--yes, it is possible, even for busy folks who work 8 to 10 hours a day. Most grocery stores offer items such as rotisserie chicken, pre-chopped veggies and chopped fruit, all of which can help you get healthier meals on the table quicker.


Eat More Heart-Healthy Fats


Your body needs fat in order to sustain you, but more of it needs to be the right kind fat – heart-healthy unsaturated fats. You can find this type of fat in fish, nuts, avocado, and olive oil — all staples in the highly popular Mediterranean Diet and low-carbohydrate diet. For frying or sautéing, try healthier alternatives such as canola, soybean, peanut, safflower, sesame or sunflower oil.


Read Food Labels


To lower your cholesterol naturally, you’ll need to develop an eagle eye for certain ingredients. Artificial trans fat will be listed on the Nutrition Facts label as hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated oil. Beware if the food claims to have 0 grams of trans fat but still lists those oils among the ingredients. That means it contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. When eating these types of products, stick to just one serving; otherwise, you’ll reach your daily limit of trans fat with just that one food.


How to Replace Foods With High-Saturated Fat if Your LDL Cholesterol is High


You can lower your LDL cholesterol naturally by replacing the high-saturated fat foods in your diet with other choices such as lean meats, skinless poultry, fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, legumes and fish like wild salmon and tuna. Canned salmon is almost exclusively wild. Fresh tuna as well as canned albacore tuna are also healthy options, but you should limit your consumption of them to 6 ounces per week due to the mercury content. Canned light tuna, regardless of being canned in water or oil, should be capped at 18 ounces per week.

As for dairy, choose non- or low-fat versions such as 1% milk; cheeses with 15 to 20%

milk fat or less; and low-fat or fat-free yogurt. However, keep in mind that the saturated fats in these foods raise your HDL cholesterol (as does unsaturated fat), so limiting them makes less sense if your HDL cholesterol is low and your LDL cholesterol is not a problem.


How Exercise Can Improve Your Cholesterol


Exercise is one of the most effective methods to improve your HDL cholesterol, especially if you’re carrying some extra weight in your abdominal area. And, you can get started with the simplest, most affordable, and convenient exercise there is — walking. 

Carrying extra weight puts undo strain on the body. It affects the body in an orthopedic way, especially in the hips, back, knees, ankles and shoulders. Therefore, practicing low-impact forms of exercise like swimming, biking, yoga and Pilates are effective forms of exercise for someone trying to increase their HDL cholesterol.


Make SMART Goals and You’ll Succeed


Lowering your cholesterol naturally requires a willingness to change and an understanding of why it matters. In this regard, SMART goals are a helpful tool on your journey to better health.


SMART goals are:



Determine exactly what you plan to accomplish by focusing on the process (the how, what and when) rather than the outcome. For example, instead of making a vague promise to improve your cholesterol by exercising more, a specific goal might be “This week, I’m going for a 30-minute walk with my dog after dinner each night.”



Simply marking on a calendar how many times you go for a 30-minute walk can allow you to gauge your progress. Or, you might calculate how many steps you take in a 30-minute walk using an activity monitor. If you’re on target, pat yourself on the back. If not, keep at it or revise your goal. Additional goals down the road could be the number of calories you’ve consumed in a day or how many cholesterol-raising foods you’ve eliminated from your diet. At your next doctor visit, the two of you can look at your LDL, HDL and total cholesterol to determine if your goals are producing positive results.


Action-Oriented Changes:

A key feature of SMART goals is that they identify an action-oriented change to make to your daily habits so you know how to reach your ultimate outcome goal, better cholesterol levels. Your goals should also be attainable. For example, exercising 2 hours a day might be unrealistic for you but 30 minutes is doable. Similarly, promising to give up sweets or quit fried foods might be difficult for you. If French fries are your vice, then you might have to slowly wean yourself from them by having them just once a week, then every two weeks, and so on until you eventually lose your craving for them. Focus on making a gradual changes by setting step-wise attainable goals.



In order to make progress, the goals need to be meaningful to you and your habits. If you already exercise daily, then setting a goal to walk your dog for 30 minutes might interfere with exercise you are already doing. Or, if you rarely eat French fries, then cutting back won’t have a big impact on your cholesterol levels. Try to make goals that will change your habits for the better and changes that have a good chance to impact your health.



Setting a timeframe for your goals makes them easier to achieve. Have a deadline for what you have vowed to do. If you set a specific goal to increase your exercise in some way, then follow it up with a timeline for your goals and keep your focus on your deadline. For many people, it helps if they share their goal with a friend, family member or doctor because it helps make them feel more accountable.  Similarly, also set a timeframe for measuring your progress. For example, after two weeks, look back in your calendar or your activity device log to see if you reached your goal to walk 30 minutes each day.

Another tip is to pay attention to cues, such as depression, anxiety and boredom as they may impact how you eat or exercise. Recognizing these cues is one of the first steps to helping you make healthy changes to your habits so you can adapt and overcome. If you’re stressed or depressed, it can lead to weight gain and higher cholesterol. Focus on improving your mental well-being, and everything else will fall into place.

Abnormal cholesterol levels increase one’s risk for heart disease, stroke and other vascular problems. Fortunately, there are a number of lifestyle changes you can make to improve your levels and reduce your risk. Take notice which type of cholesterol is your problem because the strategies are different depending on whether low HDL or high LDL cholesterol is the issue. Setting SMART goals and paying attention to your psychological health can put you on a path to success.



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