If you have high cholesterol, you know how difficult it can be to manage. Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in the fats of the blood. Your body needs cholesterol to function, however if you have too much cholesterol it can increase your risk of heart disease. There are two types of cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL). LDL is commonly referred to as “bad” cholesterol. It contributes plaque, which help clog the arteries and make them less flexible, this is known as atherosclerosis. High-density lipoprotein (HDL), which is your “good” cholesterol. HDL helps remove LDL from the arteries. HDL helps move LDL from the arteries into the liver, where it is then broken down and removed from the body. If you do suffer from high cholesterol, here are 7 natural ways that you can lower your cholesterol.
1. Check your vitamin D levels
A deficiency in vitamin D is often linked with high cholesterol. Vitamin D is used for heart issues like blood pressure and high cholesterol. An effective form of vitamin D is through sunlight. Studies have shown that vitamin D can help lower your LDL cholesterol. A simple blood test will allow you to check your vitamin D levels to see if you are deficient. If it is discovered that you are deficient in vitamin D, there are plenty of vitamin D supplements available. Vitamin D supplements also work well if you live in a climate that is not conducive to getting out in the sun.
2. Reduce Stress
Stress is a common occurrence in life, but it also contributes to high blood pressure. Try and find 10-15 minutes in your day to simply relax and help ease some of the stress that may be in your life. Yoga and light stretching are two great activities to help you relieve tension.
3. Reduce Caffeine and alcohol consumption
Both caffeine and alcohol have been shown to be contributing factors toward high cholesterol. While it is true that drinking alcohol and caffeine in moderation (1-2 cups/glasses each day), is not detrimental and can even have some health benefits, it is very important to not go overboard when consuming them. If you are somebody that drinks a cup of coffee each morning, instead of drinking a second cup, drink water instead.
4. Don’t smoke
We’ve heard this one for years, smoking increases the risk of coronary artery disease and lowers HDL cholesterol. It also increases the risk of developing blood clots by harming the lining of the blood vessels, which contributes to atherosclerosis. HDL levels often increase shortly after an individual stops smoking. Studies have shown that even second hand smoke can lower HDL cholesterol.
5. Exercise regularly
Along with eating a healthier diet, exercise is another very important step toward lowering your cholesterol. If possible, try to make time to exercise for at least one hour each day. Exercise has been shown to raise HDL levels while also lowering LDL levels. If you are not comfortable exercising for 60 minutes each day, start with about 20 minutes each day and gradually work your way towards the one hour mark. If you do this, you should start to see those LDL levels drop.
6. Get Quality sleep
One of your most important bodily functions that often gets overlooked is getting a good night’s sleep. Sleep deprivation can raise your LDL levels and can also contribute to other issues such as high blood pressure. Studies have shown that getting less than six hours of sleep each night can raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, and that getting higher than 8 hours of sleep each can raise your HDL (good) levels. It’s best not to take naps during the day as it can interfere with your sleep patterns. It’s important to have as few distractions as possible when you are going to sleep. This means that you not fall asleep with the television on, or with the lights on as these can negatively affect your sleep.
Plant Extracts to help cholesterol
1. Grape Seed Extract
Studies have shown that grape seed extract has been useful in lowering cholesterol levels. Grape seed contains flavonoids, which are antioxidants that aid in heart health, including lowering cholesterol.
2. Folic Acid
The B vitamin folic acid can help reduce cardiovascular issues, especially in people with high cholesterol. Folic Acid improves the ability of the blood vessels to dilate. This is critical for patients with high cholesterol, as high cholesterol can cause blockage of arteries and clots and flexibility of the blood vessels lowers those chances. Folic Acid is found in a number of different foods including leafy vegetables, beans, flour, and grains.
3. Artichoke Leaf Extract
Artichoke leaf extract is heavily suggested as a means to lowering cholesterol. Many doctors believe that this is due to the compound cynarin, a compound in artichokes that increases production of bile in the liver while also increasing flow of bile through the gallbladder, which then helps the body excrete cholesterol. Aside from artichokes, artichoke leaf is available in supplement form as well.