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July 29, 2021
4 min. read

I just found out I need to lower my cholesterol. Now what?

Medly

How do I lower my cholesterol? is probably one of the most common health questions. Cholesterol can be a bit of a confusing substance in the body. On one end, it is vitally necessary to help the body function properly, producing steroid hormones, Vitamin D and bile to help digest food. On the other hand, it can be a destructive substance, causing excessive fatty deposits to build up in your arteries.

This build-up restricts blood flow and puts you at greater risk for fatigue, blood clots and heart disease. So, if you have high cholesterol, you're probably looking for ways to lower it. You aren't alone. Nearly four out of every ten Americans currently have high cholesterol levels. The good news is there are lifestyle changes and medication that can help reduce it.

lower cholesterol

What is Good and Bad Cholesterol?

If you're trying to lower your cholesterol, it helps to understand the difference between the good and bad types. Knowing the difference can help you make better dietary choices and reduce the bad cholesterol in your diet.

The liver makes all the cholesterol that the body needs. Eating high cholesterol foods however is one of the main culprits that cause cholesterol levels to rise to unhealthy levels.

The foods we eat provide us with two types of cholesterol. High-density lipoprotein (HDL), known as good cholesterol, works with your liver, eliminating excess cholesterol from the body. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or bad cholesterol, remains in the body. Instead of being expelled through the liver, LDL heads toward your arteries.

Here it can cause atherosclerosis, a condition where plaque builds up in your arteries, leading to long-term health issues like stroke or heart attack.

bad cholesterol

What Causes Bad Cholesterol?

One of the main causes of bad cholesterol comes from the foods we eat. Consuming foods high in saturated fat is a leading cause of LDL cholesterol.

There are many food high in saturated fats but the most common ones that cause bad cholesterol are:

  • Fatty meats including beef, pork, and poultry
  • Lard
  • Creams
  • Butter
  • Cheese and other dairy products

Eating these types of food too much can increase LDL and increase health risks associated with high cholesterol. Reducing the intake of these foods and incorporating more healthier options in their place can reduce the bad cholesterol in your body.

In addition to eating foods with bad cholesterol, other factors that may also contribute to bad cholesterol include obesity, lack of exercise, smoking and alcohol consumption. If you are 40 or older, age may also contribute to high cholesterol. As we age it becomes harder for the liver to break down bad cholesterol. Another risk factor is heredity. If high cholesterol runs in your family, this places you at risk for high cholesterol too.

lower cholesterol

How Can I Lower My Cholesterol?

If you have high cholesterol, you may be wondering, “how do I lower my cholesterol?” Reducing saturated fat is currently one of the best ways doctors know to lower bad cholesterol. Eating monounsaturated fats as an alternative can also help lower levels. These include:

  • olive oil
  • canola oil
  • tree nuts
  • avocados

Incorporating polyunsaturated fats into your diet can also help. These include foods like salmon, deep-sea tuna, and mackerel. If you are not a seafood fan, taking fish oil supplements will allow you to enjoy the benefits without the taste. Increasing your fiber intake can also decrease LDL.

Another critical factor in high cholesterol that you need to minimize is stress. If your life is full of stressful activities, it is a good idea to reduce them to keep your cholesterol levels under control.

Medications That Lower Cholesterol

Eating right is the best way to lower cholesterol. However, if you cannot get your cholesterol lower, your doctor may prescribe medications to help to reduce it. Here are some of the most common classes of drugs that your doctor may prescribe to lower LDL.

  • PCSK9 inhibitors
  • Statins
  • Niacin
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Cholesterol absorption inhibitor
  • Citrate lyase inhibitors
  • Bile acid sequestrants
  • Fibrates

Sometimes a doctor may prescribe medication combinations to lower your LDL and decrease health risks. In addition, some of these drugs will also reduce the triglycerides within your blood, also helping to prevent health problems.

patient provider

Side Effects of Cholesterol Medications

Medications are a great way to lower cholesterol levels when they are dangerously high. Unfortunately, the drawback of cholesterol medications like any other medications is that they have many side effects. Some of the most common side effects are fatigue, digestive problems, muscle soreness, dizziness, rashes, and difficulties sleeping.

Ultimately, the best way to lower your cholesterol is to reduce your intake of LDL. Improving your diet and exercising more can go a long way towards lowering cholesterol. Increasing intake of fruits and vegetables also helps. In addition, doctors can prescribe medicines to help lower cholesterol levels. However, the side effects of these medicines may outweigh the benefits.

References: 10 Natural Ways to Lower Your Cholesterol Levels How to lower cholesterol naturally: 10 things you can do every day Foods to Help Lower LDL (‘Bad’) Cholesterol 11 Tips to Cut Your Cholesterol Fast

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