This month Dr. Ludovic Brunel gives invaluable advice for lowering that pesky cholesterol naturally. Read on to find ten ways you can make small changes to your lifestyle that will equal big changes to your overall health and wellbeing!
Elevated cholesterol levels have reached endemic levels in Canada. According to Statistics Canada, 40% of Canadians ages 20 to 79 have unhealthy cholesterol levels. It is not surprising that cholesterol lowering medications are some of the most frequently used medications worldwide. In 2012 alone, more than 38 million Canadian prescriptions were filled for statins, the most frequently used cholesterol lowering medication. Many patients trying to lower their cholesterol levels are left confused as to why the problem is occurring and are desperately looking for solutions. When it comes to solutions, the waters are often even murkier. Patients are usually reluctant to rely on drugs and would prefer to focus on dietary changes and lifestyle. Unfortunately, efforts to lower cholesterol through lifestyle are often misdirected.
The best way to prevent high cholesterol is to stay on a healthy diet and exercise daily. High cholesterol levels are also more common in diabetics and overweight or obese individuals. In some cases the cause can be genetic but these abnormalities are relatively rare.
One of the most common misconceptions is that dietary cholesterol is the main cause of elevated cholesterol in the blood. Patients often avoid eggs for that very reason. Unfortunately, avoiding eggs often leads to far worse dietary choices, especially at breakfast when alternatives often include breakfast cereals high in sugar. Studies indicate that most people can eat seven eggs a week without increasing their risk of heart disease. Some studies even indicate that consuming eggs reduces the risk of some forms of cardiovascular disease such as stroke.
The following are the key lifestyle strategies to prevent and treat high cholesterol:
- Avoid all trans fats. Also known as hydrogenated oils, these types of fat are commonly found in baked goods, snacks, fried foods, creams, and butter and margarine. Increasing bad cholesterol while simultaneously decreasing good cholesterol levels, trans fats are the worst type of fat you can consume.
- Get the majority of your calories from plant foods such as fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts and whole grains.
- Limit processed foods.
- Eat fish at least twice a week.
- Limit your intake of saturated fat. The main source of saturated fat in the North American diet is cheese, accounting for almost 10% of all saturated fat. Desserts and meats are also important contributors. If you need to add fat to your food, choose unsaturated oils such as olive oil instead of butter or margarine.
- Try to lose any excess weight. A healthy diet and regular exercise can help you achieve this. Simply losing five to ten pounds can lower your cholesterol twice as much as diet alone.
- Exercising regularly significantly lowers your risk of heart disease. Exercise improves cholesterol levels, lowers blood pressure, helps to maintain a healthy body weight and reduces the risk of developing diabetes.
If lifestyle alone is not sufficient, you should consider the following dietary supplements:
- Sytrinol: This powerful antioxidant derived from fruits has been shown to improve cholesterol levels by as much as 30% in as little as 30 days.
- Dietary fibre: Increasing dietary fibre is an excellent way to lower cholesterol levels. Fiber helps to prevent the reabsorption of cholesterol-filled bile in the intestines. Research has shown that increasing dietary fibre by five to ten grams reduces bad cholesterol levels by about five percent.
- Phytosterols: These cholesterol-like substances from plants interfere with the absorption of dietary cholesterol. Several studies have now shown that two grams of phytosterols per day can lower bad cholesterol levels by as much as ten percent.