High Cholesterol: Causes, Symptoms and How to Naturally Lower Cholesterol Fast; Cholesterol is both our friend and foe – at normal levels, it is an essential substance for the body’s normal functioning, but if levels in the blood get too high, it becomes a silent danger that puts us at risk of a heart attack.
In this article, we will take you through what cholesterol is, the causes and symptoms of high cholesterol and how health professionals diagnose the condition. We will also discuss the available treatments for high cholesterol and changes that you can make to help reduce your cholesterol levels.
Fast facts on cholesterol
Here are some key facts about cholesterol. Find more detail and supporting information in the article.
- Cholesterol is an essential substance that is produced by the body but is also ingested from animal-derived foods.
- The greatest risk factors for high cholesterol are modifiable lifestyle choices – diet and exercise.
- A predisposition for high cholesterol levels can be inherited through the genetic condition, familial hypercholesterolemia.
- Having high cholesterol does not produce any symptoms in itself.
- Everyone should have their blood cholesterol levels tested once every 5 years.
- First-line ways to reduce cholesterol involve lifestyle changes.
- If lifestyle changes are unsuccessful or cholesterol levels are very high, lipid-lowering drugs such as statins may be prescribed.
- High cholesterol levels are an important contributor in the calculation of an individual’s risk of having a heart attack within the next ten years.
High Cholesterol: Causes, Symptoms and How to Naturally Lower Cholesterol Fast
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is found in every cell of the body and has important natural functions. It is manufactured by the body but can also be taken in from food. It is waxy and fat-like in appearance.
Cholesterol is oil-based and so does not mix with the blood, which is water-based. It is therefore carried around the body in the blood by lipoproteins.
The parcels of cholesterol are carried by two types of lipoprotein:
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL – cholesterol carried by this type is known as ‘bad’ cholesterol)
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL – cholesterol carried by this type is known as ‘good’ cholesterol).
Cholesterol has four main functions, without which we could not live. It:
- Contributes to the structure of cell walls
- Makes up digestive bile acids in the intestine
- Allows the body to produce vitamin D
- Enables the body to make certain hormones.
The support charity for people with high cholesterol, HEART UK, has identified “six super foods” that actively lower cholesterol levels:
- Soya foods (15g a day) – soya milk, soya desserts, soya meat alternatives, soya nuts, edamame beans and tofu
- Nuts – a handful a day
- Oats and barley – providing the soluble fiber beta glucan
- Plant sterols/stanols – found in a wide range of foods
- Fruits and vegetables
- Foods rich in unsaturated fats – for example, canola and vegetable oils.
Go to the charity’s website for more information about foods that are good for cholesterol levels. HEART UK also lists foods that are bad for cholesterol levels:
- Hard margarines
- Fatty and processed meat
- Dairy fats.
Cholesterol Normal Ranges
The lipid profile blood test reports the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood steam. This is what the medical community believes the ranges should be but the most important thing to consider is the ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol which should be around 2:1.
|Below 200 mg/dL||Desirable|
|200-239 mg/dL||Borderline high|
|240 mg/dL and above||High|
|Below 70 mg/dL||Ideal for people at very high risk of heart disease|
|Below 100 mg/dL||Ideal for people at risk of heart disease|
|100-129 mg/dL||Near ideal|
|130-159 mg/dL||Borderline high|
|190 mg/dL and above||Very high|
|Below 40 mg/dL (men),
Below 50 mg/dL (women)
|60 mg/dL and above||Best|
|Below 150 mg/dL||Desirable|
|150-199 mg/dL||Borderline high|
|500 mg/dL and above||Very high|
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that a triglyceride level of 100 mg/dL or lower is considered “optimal.”
Causes of high cholesterol
High cholesterol is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease, a cause of heart attacks, and reducing blood lipid levels lowers the cardiovascular risk.
High levels of LDL lead to a build-up of cholesterol in the arteries, whereas HDL carries cholesterol to the liver for removal from the body. A build-up of cholesterol is part of the process that narrows arteries, called atherosclerosis, in which plaques form and cause restriction of blood flow.
High cholesterol levels are a result of modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors. Two major risk factors, diet and exercise, are highly modifiable, meaning that something can be done to change these risk factors and reduce the likelihood of having high cholesterol.
Limiting intake of fat in the diet helps manage cholesterol levels. In particular, it is helpful to limit foods that contain:
Meat, cheese and egg yolks are sources of cholesterol.
- Cholesterol (from animal foods, such as egg yolks, meat and cheese)
- Saturated fat (found in some meats, dairy products, chocolate, baked goods, and deep-fried and processed foods)
- Trans fat (found in some fried and processed foods).
Being overweight or obese can also lead to higher blood LDL levels, with regular exercise helpful in managing this risk factor.
The primary causes of high cholesterol are genetic – very high LDL levels are found in the inherited condition familial hypercholesterolemia.
Abnormal cholesterol levels may also be secondary to the following:
- Liver or kidney disease
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Pregnancy and other conditions that increase levels of female hormones
- Underactive thyroid gland.
- Drugs that increase LDL cholesterol and decrease HDL cholesterol (progestins, anabolic steroids and corticosteroids).
Symptoms of high cholesterol
Having high cholesterol levels, while a risk factor for other conditions, does not itself present any signs or symptoms. Unless routinely screened through regular blood testing, high cholesterol levels will go unnoticed and could present a silent threat of heart attack or stroke.
Cholesterol tests and diagnosis
High cholesterol can only be diagnosed by blood testing. Doctors’ guidelines state that everyone over the age of 20 years should have their cholesterol levels checked once every five years.
The cholesterol test is done after a period of fasting – no food, drink or pills for 9 to 12 hours – to enable an accurate reading of LDL cholesterol from the blood test. The screening also gives information about total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Cholesterol Reducing Foods
If you want to lower cholesterol, diet is key. Here are the top foods and nutrients that can naturally lower cholesterol:
Omega-3 fats – Foods high in omega-3 fats can help increase HDL cholesterol and reduce risk of cardiovascular disease.
Foods high in soluble fiber – Soluble fiber binds cholesterol in the digestive system causing it to be excreted by the body. Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, sprouted nuts and seeds and other fiber-rich foods.
Olive oil – Helps raise HDL cholesterol.
Garlic and onions – These two cholesterol reducing foods help lower LDL cholesterol because of their sulfur-containing compounds which help cleanse the arteries.
Herbs – Add a variety of spices such as basil, rosemary and tumeric to your food which contain antioxidants that are cardio-protective and help lower cholesterol naturally.
Foods that Raise Cholesterol
Avoid these bad cholesterol foods at all costs:
Sugar and refined carbohydrates – Both stimulate the liver to produce more cholesterol and increase inflammation.
Alcohol – Also stimulates the liver to produce more cholesterol, increasing cholesterol levels and inflammation. A glass of red wine per day may be cardioprotective, but anything more than that will increase your cholesterol.
Hydrogenated fats – Vegetable oils are pro-inflammatory and may increase cholesterol.
Caffeine – Too much caffeine can increase cholesterol. Limit coffee or tea to no more than 1-2 cups per day.
Trans fats – Increases LDL cholesterol, inflammation, and risk of cardiovascular disease.
Top 5 Cholesterol Lowering Natural Remedies
Taking the right supplements and natural remedies can help lower cholesterol levels if combined with a healthy diet.
#1 Fish Oil (1,000mg – 2,000 mg daily)
EPA and DHA (omega-3 fats) found in fish oil help reduce overall cholesterol levels.
#2 CoQ10 (200-300 mg daily)
If you are on cholesterol lowering medications, take CoQ10 daily because these medications decrease levels of this important enzyme.
#3 Niacin (1,500 mg daily)
Niacin (vitamin B3) reduces LDL cholesterol by 25% and increases good cholesterol by 35%
#4 Red Yeast Rice (1200 mg 2x daily)
Reduces cholesterol by up to 32%. Take with CoQ10 to prevent deficiency.
#5 Garlic (500 mg daily)
Increases HDL cholesterol and lowers total cholesterol.
Exercises to Balance Cholesterol
Exercise with weight training and burst training can boost HGH (human growth hormone) which can improve HDL cholesterol and lower LDL cholesterol.
Essential Oils for Cholesterol
Lavender essential oil has been proven to lower cholesterol levels because it decreases emotional stress. Cypress oil lowers cholesterol because it improves circulation and rosemary oil reduces cholesterol because of it’s unique anti-oxidant properties and is cardio-supportive .
Sources & References: