This month we've been focusing on cholesterol, for National Cholesterol Education Month. So, it's a great time to think about how things have been going with your health lately, and make any changes that seem necessary.
If you have high cholesterol it's up to you to work out how you can effectively lower it.
While medications are available, there are always going to be side effects and risks from taking these, and so learning how you can reduce your cholesterol levels naturally is an excellent way to boost your health.
Thankfully, there are lots of things you can do to lower your cholesterol levels without the use of medications.
You should have your cholesterol levels checked at least once a year, to find out how well your natural interventions are working. For the first year, start with an initial cholesterol reading, implement some natural cholesterol lowering methods, and then six months later, check your cholesterol levels again. You should see a decline. Check again in six months.
If your cholesterol levels are coming down then you know what you are doing is working.
Here are 5 natural ways to lower your cholesterol levels:
1. Lose weight
Research shows that being overweight interrupts the normal metabolism of fat. This means you may eat less fat, but your cholesterol levels will not change, because your body is not able to metabolize the fat correctly.
However, dropping just five or ten pounds can decrease your cholesterol numbers.
Any form of exercise will be beneficial in helping to lower your cholesterol levels significantly.
Walking is a very easy form of exercise to get going with right away. But, you can do whatever activity you enjoy, such as running, bicycling, swimming, martial arts, etc.
You need to be exercising enough to get your heart rate up, but still be able to carry on a conversation as you workout. If you have been sedentary for a long time, do check with your doctor before you begin a new exercise program.
3. Choose healthy fats
You may have been told to follow a low fat diet, however there are some fats that must be included in your diet for overall good health, and for the benefit of your heart.
Monounsaturated fats, found in foods such as olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds, have been proven to lower cholesterol levels. The same goes for omega-3 fatty acids — the "good" fats found in fish, etc.
Research indicates that when you cut back on saturated fats, then increase your intake of the omega-3 fatty acids, your cholesterol levels will become more favorable.
4. Eat more fiber
Fiber comes in two forms — insoluble fiber, and soluble fiber. Soluble fiber seems to have the greatest impact on lowering cholesterol levels. A specific kind of soluble fiber, called pectin, can help to lower cholesterol, and also curb appetite, so you feel like eating less.
Pectin can be found in apples, peaches, plums, and root veg, such as carrots and beetroot, or tubers, such as potatoes.
Eating a range of foods like this on a regular basis, will help you to avoid overeating, and lose weight, if necessary.
5. Reduce stress
Reducing sources of stress is really important, if you want to win the battle against poor heart health.
Stress releases chemicals into your body that can raise your blood pressure, constrict arteries, and reduce the blood flow to your heart.
Do you have a high stress job? Have you ever considered switching jobs? What is your health worth to you? Is it more important than your job? These are tough questions to answer, but this is an issue worth considering. Don't put it off!
Melanie Thomassian is a registered dietitian, and author of Dietriffic.com. Visit her blog for more healthy eating tips.