I was asked several times last week about how to lower blood cholesterol levels. If you have your cholesterol measured by the doctor, the reading needs to be below 5 to be considered within the normal range. A blood test is the only reliable way to know if you have high cholesterol or not. However, it is strongly genetic and if you have high blood pressure you are more likely to have high cholesterol but this is not always the case. Excess cholesterol can build up under the skin so it can sometimes be detected as little white dots around the eyes where the skin is very thin.
There are 2 types of cholesterol. It’s the low-density lipoprotein, or LDL cholesterol that is considered bad. High-density lipoproteins (HDL) are the good guys. The higher your HDL and the lower your LDL, the lower your risk of heart disease and heart attack. The problem with LDL cholesterol is that it collects on the walls of the blood vessels causing narrowing and restriction of blood flow.
So, cholesterol should not be considered all bad. HDL cholesterol is essential for good health. Our bodies make cholesterol and without it, we could not live. HDL not only provides support to all our cell walls, maintaining cellular health, it also scours the walls of our blood vessels helping to remove the build of the bad LDL cholesterol.
So, here are some guidelines for not only reducing your LDL levels but also for upping those super-healthy HDL levels:
• Exercise – regular, aerobic (getting out of breath) exercise for a minimum of 20 minutes, 3 times a week is thought to be the most effective way to increase your HDL levels.
• Drink white tea – this is now widely available. It comes from the same plant as your average builders tea but is not highly processed like black tea. As a result is contains high levels of a type of antioxidant, catechins, which have been shown to increase HDL and decrease LDL.
• Eat Garlic – a potent remedy for lowering high levels of LDL.
• Avoid Trans Fats – I’ve blogged about these man-made nasties before. Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats contain trans fatty acids. These fats are found in many spreads, snacks, processed baked goods and fast foods. They have been shown to significantly increase levels of LDL cholesterol.
• Have a glass of wine, preferably red – although it is not advisable to drink alcohol every day, a regular glass of wine has been shown to significantly increase levels of HDL.
• Increase levels of soluble fibre – oats are very high in a very beneficial fibre for not only lowering LDL but also for increasing HDL levels. These beneficial fibres are also found in fruits, vegetables and pulses.
• Increase intake of omega 3 fatty acids – oily fish, organic dairy products and grass-fed meats contain omega 3, shown to increase HDL levels.
• Eat healthy fats – found in nuts, seeds, avocado, olives (olive oil) increases HDL levels.
• Eat more foods high in vitamin E – this fat soluble vitamin found in sunflower seeds, avocados, nuts, whole-grains, oily fish, egg yolks, green leafy veg and sweet potatoes increases lecithin levels in the blood. Lecithin breaks up LDL cholesterol in to small particles preventing it from sticking to blood vessel walls.
• STOP SMOKING & LOSE WEIGHT if your waist measurement is greater than your hip measurement – a sure-fire way of establishing if you need to burn off some body fat.
Can I just point out that all these guidelines are the same as those recommended for virtually every aliment and are the foundation to a healthy life, so follow these pointers regardless of your cholesterol levels!