Rachael Link, MS, RD via Dr. Axe – When it comes to how to lower cholesterol, using a mix of diet and lifestyle modifications can be most effective.
There are tons of natural remedies out there for how to lower cholesterol levels, often promising quick results with next to no effort required on your part. But while it’s true that there are tons of options to keep cholesterol levels in check, it can actually be as simple as swapping out a few foods in your diet for healthier options, switching up your workout routine or adding a supplement or two into the mix.
Ready to get started? Let’s take a look at 28 simple methods for how to lower cholesterol and how it can impact your health.
Healthy Cholesterol Levels — Normal Ranges
The lipid profile blood test reports the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the bloodstream. Healthcare organizations have established a set range for total, bad LDL and good HDL cholesterol as well as triglycerides, but the most important thing to consider when looking for how to lower cholesterol naturally is the ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol, which should be around 2:1. (1, 2)
Here are the recommended ranges to help maintain optimal cholesterol levels:
Below 200 mg/dL Desirable
200-239 mg/dL Borderline high
240 mg/dL and above High
Below 70 mg/dL Ideal for people at very high risk of heart disease
Below 100 mg/dL Ideal for people at risk of heart disease
100-129 mg/dL Near ideal
130-159 mg/dL Borderline high
160-189 mg/dL High
190 mg/dL and above Very high
Below 40 mg/dL (men),
Below 50 mg/dL (women) Poor
50-59 mg/dL Better
60 mg/dL and above Best
Below 100 mg/dL Optimal
Below 150 mg/dL Normal
150-199 mg/dL Borderline high
200-499 mg/dL High
500 mg/dL and above Very high
The Dangers of High Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a naturally occurring substance made by the liver and required by the body for the proper function of cells, nerves and hormones.
Although your body needs cholesterol, excess cholesterol can build up and form a fatty plaque on the walls of the arteries, decreasing the flow of blood to vital areas of the body. If plaque continues to build long-term, it can significantly increase the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
So what causes high cholesterol? Believe it or not, the answer goes way beyond a high cholesterol diet.
While cholesterol is normally kept in balance, an unhealthy diet high in hydrogenated fats and refined carbohydrates can disrupt this delicate balance, leading to increased cholesterol levels. This imbalance is manifested in elevated LDL (bad cholesterol) and low HDL (good cholesterol), which increases the risk of heart attack or stroke. Other causes can include physical inactivity, diabetes, stress and hypothyroidism.
But keep in mind that not all cholesterol is created equally. LDL cholesterol, also known as “bad cholesterol,” is the form that can build up on the artery walls and increase your risk of heart disease. HDL cholesterol, on the other hand, is often dubbed “good cholesterol” because it travels through the bloodstream, removing harmful cholesterol from the arteries to help enhance heart health.
So how can cut down on your levels of LDL cholesterol down while increasing HDL cholesterol to keep your heart in tip-top shape? Here are some simple ways for how to lower LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol to promote better heart health.
How to Lower Cholesterol Naturally: 28 Steps
Foods to Eat
There’s no need to follow a low cholesterol diet to stay within the healthy LDL cholesterol range. Simply incorporating a few servings of foods that lower cholesterol in your diet per day can help decrease cholesterol levels and triglycerides to optimize the health of your heart.
Here are a few of the top cholesterol-lowering foods that you may want to consider stocking up on:
Vegetables are one of the top nutrient-dense foods, meaning they’re high in vitamins, minerals and fiber to support heart health, yet low in calories. Not surprisingly, studies have found that eating more vegetables is linked to lower LDL cholesterol levels in both men and women. (4)
Nuts are rich in fiber and healthy fats, making them an excellent dietary addition if you’re looking for how to lower cholesterol. One review of 25 studies showed that eating more healthy nuts was associated with lower levels of total and LDL cholesterol, plus decreased triglycerides as well. (5)
Well-known for its wealth of health-promoting properties, research shows that garlic could even benefit cholesterol levels as well. According to one review of 39 studies, consuming garlic regularly for at least two months can lower cholesterol levels to reduce the risk of heart disease. (9)
This popular plant is high in fiber, potassium and antioxidants and can help promote better heart health. One animal study showed that okra extract was able to effectively decrease cholesterol and blood sugar levels in obese mice. (10)
9. Beans and Legumes
Adding legumes to your diet can have a big impact on heart health. Studies show that a diet rich in legumes such as lentils, beans and peas is linked to lower levels of cholesterol in the blood. (11)
10. Sweet Potatoes
This tasty tuber contains several health-promoting proteins and compounds that have been shown to decrease cholesterol in animal models. (12)
11. Green Tea
Rich in antioxidants and catechins, green tea is one of the healthiest beverages that you can add to your routine. Studies show that drinking green tea can decrease levels of total and LDL cholesterol. (13)
Incorporating a few servings of this nutritious citrus fruit into your daily diet could have a major impact on heart health. One study found that consuming fiber extracted from persimmon fruit was effective at lowering cholesterol levels in adults. (14)
Avocados are high in fiber, potassium and healthy fats, all of which can aid in keeping cholesterol under control. Not only have avocados been shown to increase levels of good HDL cholesterol, but they can also reduce total and bad LDL cholesterol as well. (15, 16)
14. Gluten-Free Whole Grains
Whole grains have been associated with lower levels of cholesterol and improved heart health. (17) But because gluten can be highly inflammatory, it’s best to opt for gluten-free whole grains instead, such as buckwheat, quinoa and brown rice.
Foods to Avoid
Cleaning up your diet is one of the most effective ways to reduce your LDL levels and enhance heart health. But there’s no reason to nix high cholesterol foods from your diet altogether; in fact, there is cholesterol in eggs, red meat, dairy products and other foods that can be included in moderation as part of a healthy diet.
Instead, focus on nixing these top four foods to avoid from your diet as a simple method for how to lower cholesterol:
Although a glass of red wine per day can actually be beneficial for heart health, heavy drinking can have detrimental effects on cholesterol levels. Keep alcohol consumption in moderation by sticking to 1–2 servings per day to help optimize heart health. (19)
Overdoing it on the caffeinated beverages like coffee, soda or energy drinks may cause an increase in cholesterol levels for some people. (20) Limit coffee and tea to 1–2 cups daily to keep cholesterol in check.
4. Trans Fats
Frequently found in processed foods and pre-packaged baked goods, trans fats can increase LDL cholesterol, decrease HDL cholesterol and boost the risk of coronary heart disease. (21) It’s best to cut these unhealthy fats out of your diet altogether by minimizing your intake of processed foods.
While switching up your diet is often an effective method for reducing cholesterol levels all on its own, adding a few cholesterol-lowering supplements can boost the effects even more. Here are some of the supplements you can try using to get started:
1. Fish Oil (1,000-2,000 milligrams daily)
Packed with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil can be especially beneficial if fish doesn’t always make it into your weekly dinner rotation. Fish oil is effective at increasing levels of good HDL cholesterol in the blood to clear out LDL cholesterol from the arteries. (22)
2. CoQ10 (200-300 milligrams daily)
Coenzyme Q10 is a coenzyme that has been shown to be useful in lowering cholesterol levels. It works by removing excess cholesterol and preventing atherosclerosis to keep your arteries clear. (23)
3. Niacin (1,500 milligrams daily)
Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, is commonly used in the treatment of high cholesterol. In fact, niacin has been shown to reduce triglycerides and lower levels of LDL cholesterol while also increasing beneficial HDL cholesterol levels as well. (24)
4. Red Yeast Rice (1,200 milligrams twice daily)
Derived from white rice that has undergone fermentation, one analysis of 13 studies showed that red yeast rice was effective at decreasing both triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. (25)
5. Garlic (500 milligrams daily)
In addition to adding garlic to your diet, you may also want to consider adding a garlic extract to your natural medicine cabinet as well. Aged garlic extract, in particular, has been shown to have cholesterol-lowering properties in both human and animal studies. (26)
Certain essential oils may also have an influence on cholesterol levels. For best results, add a few drops of these powerful oils to your diffuser to take advantage of the unique health benefits that they have to offer:
2. Cypress Oil
Like lavender oil, cypress essential oil has also been shown to reduce stress to boost heart health. It is also often used to promote blood circulation and help lower cholesterol levels too. (28)
When it comes to reducing cholesterol levels, getting in plenty of physical activity is just as essential as making modifications to your diet. Here are two types of exercise that can make a big impact on heart health:
1. Aerobic Exercise
Aerobic exercise, or cardio workouts, is a form of exercise that helps strengthen your heart and lungs. And besides keeping you trim, studies show that aerobic exercise can also help lower cholesterol levels. (30) Walking, running and cycling are just a few easy ways to get in your daily dose of cardio.
2. Resistance Training
Resistance training is a form of physical activity that forces your muscles to contract, building up strength and endurance. Some research also shows that resistance training could have beneficial effects on heart health as well and may decrease total and LDL cholesterol. (31) Weight lifting and bodyweight exercises like squats or lunges are some examples of resistance training that you can add to your routine.
Although these are all effective methods for how to lower cholesterol levels, keep in mind that they should be combined and paired with other healthy habits to maximize their effectiveness. The cholesterol-lowering effects of a healthy diet, for example, can be amplified when coupled with regular exercise and a set sleep schedule.
Be sure to consult with your doctor before beginning any form of supplementation, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or are currently taking any medications. Additionally, it’s important to always work with a trusted healthcare practitioner to determine the best course of treatment for you.
• When it comes to how to lower cholesterol, using a mix of diet and lifestyle modifications can be most effective.
• Switching out unhealthy foods for heart-healthy options, squeezing in more exercise and trying out a few cholesterol-lowering supplements and essential oils can all keep cholesterol levels down to enhance heart health.
• Take it slow and try making a few small changes each week to help lower cholesterol levels and optimize your overall health.
• As always, be sure to consult with your doctor if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking any medications to find the best course of treatment for you.
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