Find out how to interpret your cholesterol test results. Plus, House Call Doctor has 10 tips to lower your cholesterol without medication.
As we have alluded to earlier, it causes plaque buildup. It can clog your arteries and cause heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral arterial disease (clogged blood vessels in your legs), to name a few unpleasant and deadly conditions.
10 Strategies to Lower Your Cholesterol without Medication
So now that we know it’s important not to ignore your high cholesterol, we need to learn strategies that help lower it. (But wipe off the sweat dripping down your chin because it is not typically an emergency situation, either). If you opt to lower your cholesterol on your own, without medication, discuss it with your doctor first, then consider the following 10 strategies:
- Limit Total Cholesterol: Do not consume more than 100mg of total cholesterol daily. Read food labels so you can keep count of your intake. If you don’t know how to read food labels, consider asking your doctor for a referral to a dietician.
- Limit Saturated Fat: When reading those food labels, pay close attention to the saturated fat content. Saturated fat should comprise no more than a maximum 5% of your total daily calories, which for most people is about 10 grams a day.
- Avoid Trans Fat: Trans fat is found mostly in processed foods, fried foods, desserts, and sweets. Your diet should contain as little trans fat as possible in order to lower your cholesterol.
- Limit Carbohydrates: Eat a balanced diet with no more than ¼ of your plate comprised of carbohydrates, and choose complex carbs that are more efficiently metabolized – such as brown rice and whole wheat breads and pasts, rather than white. Avoid sweets altogether. Lower carb intake will help you lose weight, along with lowering your triglyceride cholesterol and, in turn, your LDL.
- Eat Non-Fat Dairy: When selecting dairy, opt for non-fat options of milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.
- Eat Plant-Based Protein: For at least one protein source a day, opt for a soy-based option rather than an animal-based source – such as veggie burger, tofu, soy beans, etc. This is why some vegetarians have excellent cholesterol panels – they consume little animal proteins.
- Increase Fiber: Adults require a minimum of 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day, which are good sources of fiber. Fiber is also found in some fortified cereals, whole wheat breads, oats, and barley. Aim for 25 grams of fiber a day. If you have difficulties consuming this amount, then consider supplementing with psyllium powder or fiber supplements.
- Lose the Extra Pounds: If you are overweight, work to lose those extra pounds. This is best achieved through exercise and a healthy, well-balanced diet. “Dieting” is only temporary – most patients who diet regain the weight eventually. It needs to be a true lifestyle change to really make a difference in your overall health.
- Exercise: Perform a minimum of 30 continuous minutes of cardiovascular exercise (where your heart is pumping and you are sweating) for most days of the week (that means at least 4). Get-Fit Guy has tips on how you can get reap health benefits by working out for just 12 minutes a day!
- Limit Alcohol: Alcohol is a large source of calories and is often high in fat and triglyceride content. Even one glass of wine a day is an extra 100 calories that you can do without. Limit alcohol intake and when you do drink, choose red wine. See also Nutrition Diva's episode on Red Wine and Cholesterol for more.
So now that you know what to do, get cookin’ (using plant-derived oils, of course) – because your doctor likely wants to follow your progress with another cholesterol panel in 3-6 months.