Cholesterol is naturally produced by your body and is essential to its function throughout your everyday life. However, excessively high levels of cholesterol—in particular, LDL cholesterol— are bad and can lead to serious health problems such as clogged arteries, heart disease, and stroke.
What is LDL Cholesterol?
LDL stands for Low-Density Lipoproteins. This type of cholesterol is produced by the liver and is instrumental in the creation of cell walls, hormones, and digestive juices. However, when your LDL level is high, it can start to form a plaque-like substance on the walls of your cardiovascular system, blocking the natural flow of blood and leaving you at severe risk for heart attack and stroke. Put simply, LDL is the bad kind of cholesterol. But fear not - there are several ways in which you can lower your LDL cholesterol and encourage the development of High-Density Lipoproteins (good cholesterol), which actually function to limit the level of LDL cholesterol in your system.
Consider Screening for Familial Hypercholesterolemia (FH)?
Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is a genetic disorder that causes dangerously high levels of LDL, or "bad" cholesterol from birth. If you have a family history of heart disease and very high cholesterol, you may have FH. FH can be diagnosed with a simple blood test, or lipid panel. Learn more here.
Altering your diet is the easiest way to lower your elevated LDL cholesterol, and should be your first course of action, as every cholesterol-lowering strategy starts with your dietary habits. A balanced diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and various plants will significantly help you lower your LDL cholesterol level. It’s best to limit the amount of red meat, eggs, and dairy you consume. Plant-based diets not only help lower your LDL, but they can also help clear plaque buildup from your arteries.
Starting a simple exercise routine is another way to help lower your elevated LDL cholesterol level. And if you compound working out with the dietary tips listed above, you could potentially lower your LDL level by over 37 percent and increase your HDL cholesterol by over 5 percent in just two months. Not to mention the added benefits of losing weight, decreased stress, and higher energy, exercising is an all-around great activity to incorporate into your life. Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity, four to five times each week, and you’ll be well on your way.
While diet and exercise should be your two main options for fighting off LDL cholesterol, you can also look into the various dietary supplements that are on the market today. Consider omega-3 fish oils, artichoke extract, and green tea extract. Keep in mind that these natural products have not been fully proven to reduce your level of LDL cholesterol, but they may be able to help along the way.
Everyone’s body is different, and it may take a little bit of time to determine what cholesterol-lowering methods work best for you. Whatever program you decide on, stick with it and you’ll be on the right path to a healthier you!
Check out more Diet & Lifestyle Tips for a healthier life.
About the Author
Sam S. Gidding, MD is the Chief Medical Officer of the Family Heart Foundation. Dr. Gidding is known for founding PEDAL, a consortium dedicated to prevention of adult onset lipid related diseases beginning in youth. He is a member of the ACC/AHA task force on clinical practice guidelines and has participated in the development of new adult and pediatric blood pressure guidelines. He has previously worked on guidelines/scientific statements on familial hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, tobacco, obesity, nutrition, diabetes, and congenital heart disease for AHA, AAP, NHLBI, WHO, CDC, EAS, NLA, and ADA. Dr. Gidding has been a visiting professor at the Cleveland Clinic, University of Miami, University of Pittsburg, University of West Virginia, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Texas A and M University, Brown University, the University of Hawaii, Montefiore Hospital, and the University of Michigan and lectured internationally.