It starts with one lifestyle change.

Controlling High Cholesterol at Home

Updated: Jun 27, 2019

Heart disease is the leading killer of both men and women within the United States, which claims 1 out of every 4th person. Most heart disease cases happen in result of increased free levels of cholesterol in the blood.The majority of its prevalence in our country can be credited to two poor lifestyle choices: (1) the consumption of foods high in cholesterol and (2) sedentary lifestyle habits. 


What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy and fatty substance that is available in all body cells. Cholesterol is created by the body and affects how the body uses energy, hormones, nutrients, and digestive acids. Therefore it is essential in a number of different body functions, such as muscle movement and digestion. The amount of cholesterol created by the body is usually sufficient to meet our body needs. However, it may also be found in the food we eat, making the levels incredibly high.  


Different Types of Choelsterol: HDL vs LDL

There are two type of lipid proteins that transports cholesterol: high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and low-density lipoproteins (HDL).  It is important to maintain a balanced level between the two. HDL is known as the "good" cholesterol because it protects the heart and contributes to a lower fat count by carrying cholesterol away from body cells and to the liver for removal. On the other hand, LDL,"bad cholesterol" , is a lipoprotein that prevent cholesterol from escaping the blood, resulting in fatty deposit buildup on the blood vessel walls


High Blood Cholesterol: What Does it Mean ? 

When someone is diagnosed with high blood cholesterol, this means that their lipid panel levels are not balanced and there is too much cholesterol in the blood.

Usually the LDL levels are much higher than 100mg/dl in a person with high blood cholesterol, which may result in a number of dysfunctions. Because of the lack of symptoms associated with this condition, many people may not know that they are suffering from high blood cholesterol until the damage is done. 

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Image from CDC: About High Cholesterol


Risk Associated with High Blood Cholesterol

Individuals who present with high blood cholesterol have an increased chance of developing atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD).This is a condition in which fatty plaques (made of fat, calcium, and other blood substances) build up against the coronary arteries of the heart and cause damage to the vessels of the heart and the brain.  These damages may lead to high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.


Other risk factors for developing ASCVD include older age, ethnicity, high blood pressure, tobacco use, diabetes, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and family history. This is why it is important to maintain appropriate balance between the good and the bad cholesterol and make therapeutic lifestyle changes. The higher the HDL levels, the lower the risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. With a higher LDL level, the risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease increases [2].  


Atherosclerosis

The atherosclerotic plaques get harder and thicker with time, which leads to narrow arteries. If the plaques break, it will lead to blood clots forming and circulating throughout the body system. In result, diseases such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, and peripheral artery disease may occur. 


Outlook on TLC

We are in a time period where there is a medication to "fix" everything. However, better cholesterol control is seen in those who make consistent therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLC). These therapeutic lifestyle changes place more emphasis on holistic methods involving diet, exercise, and lifestyle habit changes. 


Diet

To avoid high blood cholesterol, it is best to avoid foods that are high in cholesterol and saturated fats. It is also ideal to avoid the consumption of foods that carry 'trans fat'. Food items that contain trans fat are usually commercial baked goods and fried dishes. Trans fat increases the LDL in the blood to above normal levels while reducing HDL levels. This action is associated with the development of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. In order to avoid undesirable increases in LDL, foods that contain high amounts of fat should be reduced to 25% to 35% of calorie intake per meal. In replacement, healthy fats such as omega 3 and monounsaturated fats are recommended. Increasing consumption of plants, vegetables, healthy oils, and nuts can aid in the reduction of LDL levels and increase HDL levels in the blood to reduce total cholesterol and heart disease risk.


Exercise

Stay active! Exercise is one of the most important regimens in the prevention of several heart related diseases. Only 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, biking, swimming, or dancing, on most days is recommended to maintain cholesterol levels within appropriate range. The recommended amount of exercise needed to to reduce the risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease is only 20-40 minutes per day. You can do that !


Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight according to body mass index (BMI) is also important in cardiovascular health . Usually, a lot can be told from the simple calculation of a person BMI; a sedentary lifestyle, poor nutrition and lack of health conscious can usually be determined. BMI is calculated based on an individual's height and body weight. Based on those two figures, a BMI is calculated to be between < 18.5 (underweight) and > 30 (obese). The ideal BMI for the average person should fall in between 18.5 and 24.9.

 Determine if you fall in the appropriate range by clicking here.


Quit Smoking

Tobacco usage, a preventable lifestyle factor, is one of the leading causes of cardiac diseases. Tobacco inflames the vessel walls and accelerates atherosclerosis. This may increase the risk of cardiac disease and cause other chronic conditions such as: cancer, stroke and lung disease. Knocking the smoking habit can reduce the risk of of high cholesterol by possibly preventing and reversing blood vessel damage.


Diet Replacements

If you require butter or margarine for your meals, explore try healthy alternatives instead. Cholesterol lowering products, such as: Benecol, Take Control, Earth Balance and Smart Balance, work to lower 'bad cholesterol', or LDL, levels by 10 to 15 % .


Annual Checkup

All adults 20 years old or older should have a fasting lipid panel completed to make sure cholesterol levels are within normal range. This lipid panel includes cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL and LDL levels . If the initial lipid panel is normal, a repeat should be done every five years. 


Natural Remedies

In conjunction with TLC, there are several natural remedies that have been used to lower cholesterol levels through ayurvedic science and naturopathy, some which may have proven to be very effective. 

  • Red Yeast Rice contains a constituent similar to lovastatin, which is a HMG coducstase inhibitor medication prescibed to lower cholesterol. It has shown to to reduce total cholesterol by at least 11% and triglyceride levels by at least 12%.

  • Fish Oil is known as the primary treatment of high triglycerides in alternative medicine. It may lowers triglycerides and total cholesterol levels by about 50%. Take 2000 mg per day. 

  • Niacin 1500 mg may reduce total cholesterol and LDL levels. This supplement also may support the increase in the cardioprotective cholesterol, HDL . Niacin lowers cholesterol by up to 25 % and increase HDL by as much as 35 % . 

  • Plant sterols from vegetables or a supplement capsule may prevent the absorption of cholesterol from food. Foods that are high in plant sterols are broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, dill, apples, avocados, and tomatoes .

  • Garlic and Guggul also are active in the reduction of cholesterol and they also are known to increase HDL levels .

Take Away

Reducing cholesterol to normal levels will result in improved life quality by reducing the buildup of plaque in your arteries. It may also reduce the risk of stroke, heart disease, and life threatening blood clots. Make healthy lifestyle changes to take control over your body and potentiate positive health outcomes !



References

1. Burchum, J. (2017). Lehne's pharmacology for nursing care (9th ed.). St. Louis: Saunders.

2. What Is Cholesterol? - NHLBI, NIH. (2017). Nhlbi.nih.gov. Retrieved 17 October 2017, from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hbc

3. Heart Disease Fact Sheet|Data & Statistics|DHDSP|CDC. (2017). Cdc.gov. Retrieved 17 October 2017, from https://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fs_heart_disease.htm

4. Stengler, M., Balch, J., Young-Balch, R., & Balch, J. (2016). Prescription for natural cures (3rd ed.). Nashville: Turner.

About Me

Hi I am Dr. MIG, the family nurse practitioner, health coach student, fitness enthusiast, herbal counselor and wellness motivator and I am happy you landed here !

 

Check out the rest of Rooted Vigor's content as I encourage a whole mind, body, and soul approach to disease prevention and lifestyle modification.

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