Heart disease is a topic that gets plenty of attention in the media, and for good reason. After all, it is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Heart disease is a vast topic, and a variety of risk factors come into play. Today, I want to narrow the subject down to the issue of cholesterol, which is one of the greatest—yet most manageable—risk factors for coronary heart disease.
I make it a point to discuss cholesterol in depth with my patients because anyone can take control of their health when it comes to keeping cholesterol levels in a healthy range. It’s true that a tendency for high cholesterol may be inherited through genes, but there are still many natural options available in such cases.
Making the effort is well worth it: studies have proven that lowering cholesterol decreases your chance of developing heart disease. Furthermore, people who currently have heart disease can decrease their risk of suffering nonfatal heart attacks and dying from heart disease by lowering their cholesterol levels.
Your Healthy Answers To Lower Cholesterol
To help you fight heart disease, I have combed through the latest research and put together this list of natural ways to begin lowering cholesterol levels today.
Vitamins – Look for a vitamin supplement formula that helps keep your cholesterol ratio in the normal range. Vitamin E and selenium are two nutrients crucial to cholesterol health. Vitamin B3 (niacin) is another nutrient believed to lower LDL, the bad cholesterol.
Herbs and Spices – The seeds and leaves of fenugreek may lower total cholesterol. Look for supplements with at least 500mg of this potent herb. Guggulipid, the gum resin of a myrrh tree common in India may also lower LDL. Other studies suggest that artichoke leaf extract, yarrow, holy basil, ginger, turmeric, rosemary and garlic can have cholesterol-lowering effects.
Quitting Smoking – Smoking causes high cholesterol, but quitting can raise the good, HDL, cholesterol and reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
Dietary Fiber – Foods from plants, especially oat bran, barley, psyllium seeds, flax, apples, citrus fruits and legumes, contain soluble fiber that favorably impacts cholesterol levels.
Phytosterols– These compounds found in small amounts in plant foods interfere with intestinal absorption of cholesterol. Get them in vegetable oil spreads, like Promise, Smart Balance and Benecol; vegetable oil-based salad dressing; and fortified foods, like Minute Maid Heart Wise orange juice and CocoVia chocolates.
Soy Foods – Tofu, tempeh, soy milk, edamame and soy nuts are just some of the soy products that have been shown to lower LDL cholesterol.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids – These cholesterol-lowering nutrients are found in walnuts, flax seeds and fish. Aim for 2 servings per week of salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna or sardines. Fish oil capsules are another way to get your daily dose.
Diet – Cutting down on saturated fat keeps LDL cholesterol in check. People with heart disease should aim to eat less than 200mg of cholesterol from animal products (meat, dairy, eggs), and those who wish to maintain healthy cholesterol levels should stay under 300mg, according to the American Heart Association. Trans fats, which increase bad, LDL, cholesterol and decrease good, HDL, cholesterol should be completely avoided.
Exercise – Aside from the many health benefits associated with exercise, moderate physical activity can increase levels of good cholesterol.
Now that you know how many easy options exist for managing cholesterol health, I’m sure you are eager to get started! Work with your doctor and don’t be discouraged. As long as you practice moderation through diet, add some helpful vitamins and herbs, and stay active everyday, you can be well on your way to a healthy number at your next cholesterol screening.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
Photo Credit: Ambro