Medically Reviewed by Vincenta Faulkner, RD, CNSC, CCTD
If you have high cholesterol, you probably want to lower your numbers as quickly as possible.
Even though high cholesterol itself does not present with any symptoms, it increases your risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.
Unhealthy lifestyle habits largely contribute to high cholesterol levels. Examples include an unhealthy diet full of added saturated and trans fat, insufficient exercise, and high alcohol consumption.
So, how can you lower your cholesterol quickly without medication? Is it even possible to quickly lower your cholesterol naturally? What should you eat to lower LDL cholesterol?
These are all valid questions if your most recent blood test or lipid panel indicated that you have high cholesterol levels. Zizi is here to walk you through the answers.
Let’s explore more below.
What Is Cholesterol and Why Should I Lower My Levels?
Cholesterol is a waxy lipid that your body naturally produces in the liver. Your body produces this lipid to help carry out many critical bodily functions and processes, like cell membrane production and support. Cholesterol also helps your body produce the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone, vitamin D, and bile acid to aid in fat digestion.
While your body naturally makes all the cholesterol it needs in your liver, your diet can affect your cholesterol levels further. You can primarily find cholesterol in animal-based foods, like meats or egg yolk, but it is unlikely for cholesterol from these sources to play a huge role in impacting your levels.
Other food sources like saturated and trans fat can stimulate your liver to produce more cholesterol or affect your body’s cholesterol absorption such that your cholesterol levels increase.
When you have high levels of cholesterol, you can develop atherosclerosis, a buildup of fatty deposits on your artery walls. Atherosclerosis may lead to artery wall narrowing, hardening, and eventually blockage, and when your artery wall becomes blocked, a heart attack results.
The cholesterol that collects in your bloodstream and deposits on your artery walls is called low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol. You should aim to lower your LDL levels if you have high numbers to reduce your risk for heart disease.
In the process, you will also create a more sustainable, healthy lifestyle for yourself that will leave you feeling happier and more confident.
What Are the Main Strategies To Quickly Lower Cholesterol?
The primary strategy you can employ to quickly target high cholesterol levels naturally is to make lifestyle changes, especially in your diet.
These lifestyle changes can be relatively easy to make if you start low and follow a sustainable plan. As you take on these lifestyle changes, you will start to notice changes in how you feel — and in your cholesterol numbers.
While these changes will not happen overnight, they could happen as soon as four to six weeks after you start to adopt new habits. By the time several months go by, your changes can produce even more palpable results for you, your body, and your overall heart health.
Consume a Variety of Heart-Healthy Foods
Soluble fiber is a great food source to target high cholesterol levels because it blocks and reduces your body’s cholesterol absorption capabilities. Soluble fiber also takes longer for your body to digest, which means that you will feel full for longer and may thus find it easier to maintain a healthy weight.
Foods rich in soluble fiber include oats, barley, whole grains, veggies, apples, and beans.
Because soluble fiber blocks cholesterol absorption in your body, it helps target and lower your LDL levels if they are high. If you aim to eat between five to ten grams of soluble fiber daily, you could start seeing your LDL numbers drop soon after incorporating this habit into your diet and meal planning.
Monounsaturated fats, which are liquid at room temperature, are great food sources to lower cholesterol levels.
Foods rich in monounsaturated fat include avocado, nuts, and vegetable oils. When it comes to vegetable oils, it is easy to substitute canola, sunflower, safflower, or olive oil in place of butter, lard, or shortening when you cook.
These changes can produce noticeable results in your LDL numbers, too. If you substitute olive oil for butter, for example, you could reduce your LDL numbers by as much as 15%!
When it comes to nuts, most types of nuts help lower LDL levels. Nuts are rich in sterols, which help lower cholesterol levels in the same way that soluble fiber does: by blocking cholesterol absorption. If you consume just two ounces of nuts such as almonds or peanuts daily, you could see your LDL levels drop by as much as 5%.
Polyunsaturated fat is a food source that can also help reduce high cholesterol levels.
Foods rich in polyunsaturated fat include walnuts, fish, and plant oils. When it comes to plant oils, soybean, corn, and sunflower oils are heart-healthy options.
Good choices of fish include salmon, tuna, trout, and mackerel. These fish are rich in omega-3s, which can target high triglycerides and help reduce your blood pressure, both of which are risk factors for heart disease.
Cut Back on Foods Adverse to Heart Health
Limit Saturated Fats
Unlike unsaturated fats, which are generally liquid at room temperature, saturated fats stay solid at room temperature.
Saturated fats negatively impact your total cholesterol levels and can raise your LDL cholesterol levels when consumed in large amounts.
Foods rich in saturated fat include processed meats and full-fat dairy products. You may want to limit the amount of red meat, pork, chicken with the skin on, butter, cheese, and other heavy-cream dairy products, as well as palm and coconut oil.
While you do not have to completely omit these options from your diet (everything in moderation, remember), it can be beneficial to be careful not to let saturated fat content exceed 5-6% of your total daily calorie intake.
(Try To) Eliminate Trans Fats
When unsaturated fat goes through processing and transforms from a liquid into a solid at room temperature, it becomes a particularly unhealthy type of saturated fat called trans fat.
This process that turns unsaturated fatty acid into saturated fatty acid is called hydrogenation, and manufacturers use this technique to cut costs and make their products last longer. Trans fat can raise your total cholesterol levels because this type of saturated fat both raises your LDL while at the same time lowering your HDL, or good cholesterol levels.
In general, it is unlikely that you will buy products with a lot of trans fat in them because the FDA has banned the use of artificial trans fat when it comes to food processing. Trans fat also does occur naturally in some butter, milk, cheese, and meat products, so it’s hard to eliminate your chances of trans fat consumption.
When you buy pre-packaged foods at the grocery store, you should look for phrases such as “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil,” which means trans fat.
Manage Your Weight
Obesity is a leading contributor to higher cholesterol levels. However, you often do not have to drop a massive amount of weight to start to see your cholesterol numbers lower. Many studies indicate that a small weight reduction, as simple as ten pounds, can lower your LDL cholesterol levels.
However, weight loss is more complex than this. If you are obese, you may have to aim to lose more weight long-term to decrease your risk for other dangerous health factors besides high cholesterol.
Aiming to lose weight gradually is often the best method — it can be both healthier and more sustainable long-term when it comes to weight management goals.
If you include exercise as a part of your well-balanced lifestyle, you are on the right track toward improving your cholesterol numbers.
Exercising just two or three hours a week is enough to raise your HDL cholesterol levels while lowering your LDL cholesterol levels. While every person is different, it is generally recommended to engage in 30 minutes of exercise four to five times a week.
Exercise does not always have to be going for a run, doing jumping jacks, or doing squats and pushups. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator at work or standing during the day instead of sitting at your desk counts as staying active, as does working outside in your garden or playing with your dog.
Limit Alcohol Consumption and Eliminate Smoking
If you consume alcohol in excess, your cholesterol numbers may increase, especially because alcohol is high in sugar and calorie content. Generally, it may be best not to exceed one drink a day if you identify as female or two drinks a day if you identify as male.
Too much alcohol also causes other health complications that contribute to a higher risk for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, so your heart will thank you in other ways beyond your reduced cholesterol levels.
Smoking can raise LDL and lower HDL cholesterol levels, and those who quit may actually raise their HDL levels.
Stress could actually make your cholesterol levels rise even more. How you feel mentally and physically plays a huge role in your body’s natural processes and functions, including cholesterol levels.
So sit back, kick off your shoes, take some deep breaths, and do what you love and what keeps you feeling passionate. Not only will you likely feel better physically, but you could also start to see your beneficial HDL cholesterol levels rise.
Care Made Easy With Zizi
The most efficient way to lower your cholesterol levels naturally, without taking medication, is to look at your lifestyle habits and make changes towards a healthier, well-balanced lifestyle.
These lifestyle changes can include a healthier diet, more exercise, losing or maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol consumption, eliminating smoking, and taking heart-healthy supplements like the ones right here at Zizi.
At Zizi, we understand the importance of commonsense care and want to make your cholesterol-lowering journey as easy as possible.
With a subscription to our Heart Health Reset get access to ongoing preventative care without ever leaving your house. Lowering your cholesterol levels can be that easy with Zizi.
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