With heart disease being a leading cause of death in the United States, Cholesterol and cholesterol lowering drugs have been in the spotlight more than ever. This natural product produced in the body has become the black sheep of the heart disease debate. Currently, approximately 1 in 4 Americans over the age of 45 are taking a statin drug to lower cholesterol, a number equal to the population of Florida and Illinois combined (1) and our heart disease numbers continue to grow. To understand why this may be so, you need to understand the mechanism by which it works.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a natural substance produced by the liver. The liver produces about 75% of all cholesterol found in the body and approximately 25% is consumed from animal sources. This waxy substance in contained in every single cell, forms the basis of almost all the hormones produced in the body (estrogen, testosterone ,Vitamin D, etc), makes up the majority of your nervous system, and is extremely important to most brain functions (ex. forming memories). It is divided mainly into 2 different groups that we are very familiar with called HDL and LDL representing low-density and high-density lipoprotein respectively that are used to transport cholesterol throughout the body.
The Good, The Bad, and How Plaques are made
HDL is also referred to as the good cholesterol while LDL is considered the bad because it is found in the plaques located in arteries that are thought to cause heart disease. Cholesterol is often wrongly blamed for causing these plaques but the true culprit is inflammation. Inflammation is a serious issue that damages the interior lining of the artery. This inflammation can be from a variety of sources including too much sugar, unbalanced omega ratios, medications, or a variety of different reasons. (By the way, this is also the reason that plaquing in veins is not an issue, because the inflammatory agents have been filtered out of the bloodstream by the time is returns to the heart.) Cholesterol is actually a cell membrane repairer, so it stops at inflammation sites in the artery to repair the damaged lining. HDL moves extremely fast through the bloodstream sweeping whatever it can at its fast pace, so very little HDL is found in the plaque and is considered good. LDL on the other hand, moves very slowly and is allowed time to bind and start to repair these damaged areas. Add platelets and clotting factors to this sticky attempt to repair the damage and you have a perfect plaque. Cholesterol, especially LDL, is given a bad name because it is thought to cause these plaques, but the truth is far from it, as the plaques are a result of cholesterol doing its job and repairing the damaged lining.
Lowering Cholesterol Naturally
The answer to the cholesterol debacle is not a magic pill, it’s a proper lifestyle. Only 25% of the cholesterol in the body is a result of diet, however, proper nutrition can reduce these levels by both lowering the amount of cholesterol and decreasing inflammation in the body(2).
- Reduce the amount of grains and sugar you eat. This reduces inflammation and the body will reduce cholesterol production as a result.
- Incorporating raw vegetables into your diet provides large amounts of soluble fiber which is great for your body and also provides good quality protein and nutrients.
- Eat good quality, organic proteins and fats. Olive Oil (not heated), coconut oil, avocados, and certain nuts provide excellent sources of essential omega 3 and 9 fats that balance ratios and reduce inflammation.
- Quit smoking and reduce alcohol consumption, both inflammatory to the body.
- Exercise. Burst Training helps to balance hormones and build lean muscle mass. Exercise has also been shown to stimulate enzymes in the body that move LDL from the blood to liver where it is either converted into bile or expelled (3). Therefore, the more you exercise, the more LDL that is removed.
“A 2002 study by researchers at Duke University Medical Center found that more intense exercise is actually better than moderate exercise for lowering cholesterol. In a study of overweight, sedentary people who did not change their diet, the researchers found that those who got moderate exercise (the equivalent of 12 miles of walking or jogging per week) did lower their LDL level somewhat. But the people who did more vigorous exercise (the equivalent of 20 miles of jogging a week) lowered it even more.”
Supplements that aid in the process
- Supplement with a quality Omega 3 fish oil or krill oil. This balances fat ratio’s and decreases inflammation. Quality brands include Garden of Life, New Chapter, Nordic Naturals, and Carlson’s.
- Flax seeds: A great source of fiber and more omega 3’s.
- Green Tea Extract: This has been shown to raise HDL levels in both humans and animals and may aid in blocking the absorption of cholesterol in the intestines and promote its excretion (5).
- Garlic: a natural and potent antioxidant.
Take away points
With the widespread use of statin drugs and their dangerous side effects, lowering cholesterol is much more of a lifestyle choice. A magic pill did not produce high cholesterol, nor will a magic pill cure this problem. Proper nutrition and exercise have been very effective in lowering cholesterol levels, plus you get many other healthy benefits from this regimen, without any of the side effects. Get informed on the topic and attack it with an all natural approach that has been shown to work with the way the body was intended. Choose Natural Health!
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