Cholesterol is a waxy substance produced by the liver that’s useful to the body in normal amounts. But too much of it hanging around in your blood can be dangerous, particularly to your heart. If the level of your “bad” (LDL) cholesterol is too high, your doctor will recommend lowering it ASAP. Follow their advice. And there are things you can do to avoid getting to that point: These are the cholesterol-lowering secrets that really work, according to experts. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
People who ate snacks containing certain nutrients were able to lower their LDL (“bad”) cholesterol without taking statins, a recent Mayo Clinic study found. Participants substituted their usual snacks for healthier options (like single-serving oatmeal, nutrition bars or granola) containing at least 5 g of fiber, 1,000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids, 1,000 mg of phytosterols, and 1,800 μmol of antioxidants per serving. The result: The group lowered their LDL cholesterol by 8.8%, on average.
Being overweight (having a BMI over 25) or obese (a BMI over 30) increases your bad cholesterol level. “Excess body fat affects how your body uses cholesterol and slows down your body’s ability to remove LDL cholesterol from your blood,” says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The combination raises your risk of heart disease and stroke.” Experts say losing just five to 10 pounds of body weight can reduce your LDL cholesterol level by 5% to 10%.
Exercise is a slam-dunk way to get and maintain good cholesterol numbers, experts say. “Exercise works to eliminate the dangerous, fatty LDL cholesterol by increasing HDL cholesterol,” says the Cleveland Clinic. “Aerobic exercise that’s repetitive and works multiple muscle groups, is the best exercise to reduce cholesterol.” Experts like the American Heart Association recommend getting at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise daily.
An easy way to lower your cholesterol numbers is to switch to a plant-based diet, one that emphasizes vegetables and fruits and healthy sources of protein, such as plant-based proteins (like beans or legumes) or fish. These foods are naturally low in saturated fats, which are mostly found in red meat and full-fat dairy products and can drive up bad cholesterol. Make sure you consume plenty of soluble fiber, which binds to cholesterol and eliminates it from the body. Experts recommend consuming at least 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day.
Regularly drinking excess amounts of alcohol can boost your triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood) while raising bad cholesterol and lowering good cholesterol. “Alcohol is broken down in your liver and reconstructed as cholesterol and triglycerides,” explains the Cleveland Clinic. “The more you drink, the more your levels of cholesterol and triglycerides rise.” To help keep your cholesterol numbers in a healthy range, drink only in moderation, meaning no more than two drinks daily for men, or one drink daily for women. And to protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.