Natural Ways to Lower Your Cholesterol & Protect Your Heart

Want to reduce your cholesterol or stave off a problem down the line, consider the following.

Cholesterol is a substance found in the blood plasma and while it is essential to life, high cholesterol levels can out you at risk for cardiovascular problems including atherosclerosis. Excessive levels can be an indicator of increased risk of heart attack and/or stroke. A major push in the battle against heart disease is lowering total cholesterol levels. There are two main types of cholesterol in your blood. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is the "bad" type that tends to clog your arteries; high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is the "good" kind that helps sweep cholesterol deposits out of your arteries and protects against a heart attack. If you think you might have a cholesterol problem, get tested and confer with your doctor or health care professional. Want to reduce your cholesterol or stave off a problem down the line, consider the following.

1. Adopt a “plant-strong” diet

Keeping an eye on your cholesterol doesn’t mean you can never have butter or brie again, but you do need to keep good habits most of the time. Your diet should be rich in plants with a variety of fruits and vegetables making up the bulk of your diet.

2. Roughing it

Dietary fibre is found exclusively in plant foods where it serves as the structural framework. A diet high in fibre is beneficial for many reasons. It helps improve intestinal health, prevents heart disease and some cancers, reduces blood pressure, regulates blood sugar, and can help manage weight. Soluble fiber is appears the fibre of choice when it comes to cholesterol as it reduces your low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the oft referred to "bad," cholesterol. Likewise, soluble fibre can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. Soluble fiber is found many foods like oatmeal, kidney beans, apples, pears, barley and prunes.

3. Vampires & cholesterol, birds of a feather?

There is some evidence to suggest that garlic may reduce your cholesterol. Though the evidence isn’t conclusive, garlic is good for you and delicious in your food so why not? Add a little garlic to your tomato sauce and the lycopene in cooked tomatoes is just an extra healthy benefit.

4. Hey Sugar, put that cookie down

Sure a spoonful of sugar might help the medicine go down but too much and it will significantly lower your "good" cholesterol and raise your triglycerides, the fat associated with heart disease and stroke. Yes we need sugar and have a palate that has evolved to love these quick calories because it equaled survival but unlike in the distant past, sugar is everywhere and calories are rarely in short supply for most of us. Most of us get plenty of dietary sugar from fruit and dairy and don’t need the empty calories cookies and soda offer.

5. Lose the latte, skip the soda –caffeine

To date, coffee consumption has not been directly linked with heart disease. However, two terpenes found in high amounts in unfiltered coffee have been found to raise cholesterol levels. If you already have high cholesterol levels, you would be wise to skip unfiltered or French press coffee altogether and limit your consumption of caffeine overall.

6. Stick to one drink

Some studies suggest that people who drink alcohol in moderation have lower rates of heart disease, and might even live longer than those who abstain. Red wine in particular may offer the greatest benefit for lowering heart disease risk and mortality because it contains natural plant chemicals -- such as resveratrol -- which are natural antioxidants and may protect artery walls. Before you order another round, know that the findings on alcohol consumption are not entirely positive. Consuming too much alcohol can actually increase your risk for heart disease and stroke, raise blood pressure, contribute to obesity, and increase the levels of fats called triglycerides in the blood.

7. Get off the couch & don’t be a mouse-potato

Research suggests a direct correlation between a person's level of physical activity and their cholesterol levels. Exercise has a number of cardiovascular health benefits. So get off the couch and step away from the computer and find ways of incorporating more physical activity into your daily routine.

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