Q: I’ve struggled with my cholesterol being borderline high. When possible, I avoid taking medications. Are there natural ways to keep my cholesterol in check?
A: Medications may be necessary to keep your cholesterol under control, but there are things you can do to help lower your cholesterol naturally.
It does take lifestyle changes to lower your cholesterol without drugs, but they don’t all have to be done at once. Every little bit helps when it comes to making adjustments for your health. And by incorporating as many changes as you can over time, in conjunction with following the treatment plan prescribed by your physician, you’ll be sure to see noticeable improvements in your overall health.
- Cut out smoking – As if there aren’t already plenty of other reasons to quit smoking, kicking the habit will help to raise your HDL (“good cholesterol”) levels, and after 1 year of being smoke-free, your risk of heart attack will be half that of a smoker.
- Drink in moderation, or not at all – Drinking no more than one drink a day for women and two a day for men has been shown to raise your HDL levels to some extent. However, the effect is not enough to warrant a non-drinker to start hitting the bottle.
- Maintain a healthy weight – Even if you’re only a few pounds overweight, the extra pounds could have a significant effect on your cholesterol levels.
- Eat a cholesterol-reducing diet – Avoid whole milk products, egg yolks, and other high-cholesterol foods, red meat and other foods that are high in saturated fats, and fried foods that are rich in trans fats. Instead, go for foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and those rich in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, walnuts, and flaxseed), which will help to lower your LDL (“bad cholesterol”) level.
- Exercise regularly – Not only will exercise help you lose weight, it will help to raise your HDL levels even if weight isn’t an issue for you. Start with 10 minute intervals, then work up to raising your heart rate for 30-60 minutes a day for 3-4 days a week.