Many people today consume not only far too many calories, but also too much of the wrong types of foods, which leads to high cholesterol levels and lots of unwelcome health problems.
When your cholesterol starts to get into the dangerous range, doctors will prescribe medication to control it. But before you get to that point, you should think about what you can do to reduce your levels of bad, or LDL, cholesterol. That leads to the question “how to lower LDL without medication?”
In this article we’ll look at:
- What LDL cholesterol is
- Common cholesterol medication and side effects
- How to lower LDL without medication
- Foods to look out for and avoid
- How long it takes to lower your cholesterol
Scroll down to read on, or use the links below to jump to the relevant section.
What is LDL cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fatty substance which is carried around the body – in blood – by small molecules known as lipoproteins. Although anything termed “fatty” is often considered bad for the body, cholesterol is actually essential for the body to function properly.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is the most common form of cholesterol found in the body – the next most common is high-density lipoprotein cholesterol – and due to the buildup of plaque in your arteries it can cause, is referred to as bad cholesterol.
Ideally, you should be looking to have LDL cholesterol levels of less than 100mg/dL to be considered healthy, but nearly a 1/3 of US citizens still have unhealthy levels of LDL cholesterol and this can cause a wide range of health issues such as heart attacks and strokes.
Due to the severe health issues posed by high LDL cholesterol levels, doctors are keen to prescribe medicine to reduce cholesterol levels and improve the patient’s health.
The most popular medicines prescribed include:
The first line defense for reducing LDL cholesterol is a group of medicines known as statins. By helping lower levels of LDL cholesterol and slightly raising HDL (good) cholesterol, statins have been shown to reduce the risk of major cardiovascular events such as a heart attack. The most popular statins include: Livalo (Pitavastatin), Lescol (Fluvastatin) and Lipitor (Atorvastatin) – all of which have also demonstrated an ability to reduce blood triglycerids which are another form of fats found in the blood.
Nicotinic acid – best known as Niacin – is a B-vitamin commonly found in foods and has the wonderful effect of reducing LDL cholesterol whilst raising HDL cholesterol. Unfortunately, the levels required for Nicacin to make a significant impact on your LDL cholesterol is almost impossible to achieve through diet. Luckily, high dose Niacin is available on prescription and ensures that the required doses are easily achievable.
One of the newest methods for treating high levels of LDL cholesterol, PCSK9 inhibitors are seen as a new approach to treating high cholesterol. They’re an important treatment, particularly in patients who struggle to control their LDL cholesterol through diet – this can be down to genetic reasons rather than a lack of will power. PCSK9 inhibitors work by blocking the PCSK9 protein, a move which ensures the body can remove LDL cholesterol more effectively.
Side effects of cholesterol medication
Although cholesterol medication has a number of benefits, these are counterbalanced by the myriad side effects associated with the medications. Statins, in particular, cause a wide number of side effects such as dizziness, drowsiness, nausea and headaches. Niacin, meanwhile, can cause patients to suffer flushing reactions, headaches and gastrointestinal upset. Finally, PCSK9 has been cited as being responsible for limb pain, fatigue and even memory loss.
How to Lower LDL without Medication
Due to the side effects associated with cholesterol medication, many people with high cholesterol are, naturally, worried about relying on them and suffering in other aspects of health. Thankfully, drugs aren’t the only way to reduce high levels of LDL cholesterol.
Instead, there are a number of natural techniques you can implement into your daily routine to stop your cholesterol sky rocketing:
- Exercise – Studies have indicated that exercise can stimulate enzymes which aid in the clearance of LDL from the blood and this means that more exercise equals less LDL. To reap the benefits of exercise, you need to be completing moderate intensity exercise for 10 – 20 minutes a day such as:
- Lifestyle Changes – There are many simple, everyday activities that can be changed in order to reduce your LDL, so making these lifestyle changes can have a huge impact and one of the most recognized is intermittent fasting. By fasting every other day, your body is forced into burning fat which brings your LDL levels right down.
- Diet – One of the most important, and most natural, ways to reduce your LDL is through your diet. A well rounded diet is crucial to keep LDL levels minimized, so it’s a good idea to look at the following:
- Do you know which foods are good and which are bad for you? It’s common for people to think that certain foods are good because they’re natural, but they’re actually packed full of cholesterol e.g. eggs. Getting educated is an important part of staying motivated to lose weight.
- Certain foods and supplements can reduce your LDL levels dramatically, so it’s important that you educate yourself on which of these are the best fit for your current diet.
These three methods for reducing your LDL cholesterol are well proven and seen by many as the gold standard for reducing your cholesterol. Not only are they simple and easy to follow once you’ve carried out a little research, but they also help you to avoid the need for prescription medicines which come with a whole host of unwanted side effects.
Foods that Raise Cholesterol
There are a number of high cholesterol foods which are seen as the building blocks for severe health issues e.g. heart attacks and strokes. Whilst these high cholesterol foods are acceptable as an occasional treat, a regular, long-term intake can cause health complications which can be life changing.
To avoid running the risk of high cholesterol, you should be aware that the following foods come packed full of cholesterol:
- Full fat cheese and other dairy products like cream
- Fatty meats such as sausages and bacon
- Palm and coconut oil
- Fast food, particularly oily meals like fried chicken
All of these high cholesterol foods can spell disaster for your health, so avoiding them can really benefit your well-being and, in particular, your LDL cholesterol level.
It may be difficult to resist these appetizing foods (although cheats are allowed here and here), but the long term benefits will taste much better.
Low cholesterol food list
The best foods to lower cholesterol are nothing out of the ordinary and many of you will already enjoy them on a daily basis. However, in order to reduce your cholesterol significantly, you need to build a number of them into your diet and the best foods to lower cholesterol are:
- Porridge – Seen as a superfood for lowering cholesterol, porridge is rich in beta-glucans which are a form of fiber which reduces the uptake of carbohydrates into our blood and, therefore, decreases the need for the body to make new fat.
- Baked Beans – The humble baked bean has, thanks to its soluble fiber, been proven to reduce cholesterol when eaten regularly.
- Soya Milk – Soya milk is a low fat alternative to standard dairy milk and, as dairy milk can be very fatty, soya milk offers the best opportunity to reduce your fat consumption which, in turn, can reduce your cholesterol.
- Avocado – A study has shown that eating an avocado a day can seriously reduce your cholesterol levels thanks to the presence of monounsaturated fats and accompanying fiber, vitamins and minerals contained within them.
- Green Tea – Considered a superfood by almost everyone who knows a thing about nutrition, green tea is seen as a cholesterol buster thanks to the antioxidant properties of catechins which are found in large numbers in green tea. Start with a mug of green tea before bed in the evening and see how you get on.
- Hazelnuts – One of the best foods to lower cholesterol are hazelnuts. Thanks to the combination of protein, healthy fats, antioxidants, fiber and vitamins, hazelnuts can seriously reduce your LDL levels and help to prevent heart disease.
How long does it take to lower cholesterol with diet?
Lowering your cholesterol isn’t something that can be achieved overnight, but it doesn’t actually take as long as you think. Doctors estimate that it’s possible to reduce your LDL levels by 20% after just three to six months work on actively reducing it.
Therefore, although, it may seem tough at first, real results can be achieved in a relatively short space of time.
Make a positive change to your life
If you’re worried about your cholesterol levels and want to make a positive change to your life, switching out the bad foods and consuming more of the good is a great place to start.
Getting ahead of your condition and taking control now will hopefully help you to avoid the need for cholesterol medication.
If you want to accelerate your progress then definitely look to include more exercise in your routine. Begin your day with a short walk, or a gentle job, and build up as your confidence and fitness levels grow.
Remember, if you’re planning on making major changes to your diet or lifestyle, you should always consult with a doctor first.