According to the Centers for Disease Control, almost 35% of all Americans have high cholesterol levels—specifically that of high LDL, or “bad” cholesterol.
This is a serious issue, since one-third of all cases of heart disease stem from cholesterol problems. Thankfully, getting your cholesterol in check isn’t too difficult if you know the right remedies to choose. Here is a look at some of the most popular and effective options for reducing your LDL levels.
Diet to Lower LDL
If you’re dealing with high cholesterol, dietary changes should be your first attempt at treatment. They’re less expensive than medications and can provide numerous other health benefits to you.
There is a strong correlation between obesity and high cholesterol, so losing excess weight is an important first step. While you should ideally aim for a goal weight that puts you within the “healthy” range on the BMI scale, even modest weight loss can improve your cholesterol levels.
However, even if you’re not overweight, a diet to lower LDL can still reduce your levels. This includes limiting your daily cholesterol intake to no more than 300 mg, choosing heart-healthy whole grains, decreasing your saturated fat intake, increasing your unsaturated fat intake, and eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. There are also some studies that indicate that alcohol may boost your HDL (the “good” cholesterol) levels, but it should only be consumed in moderation.
Exercise to Lower LDL
Regular exercise should also be another important aspect of your cholesterol reduction plan. Most doctors recommend at least 30 minutes of activity five days a week, but even smaller workouts can prove to be beneficial. If you’re dealing with other health problems besides cholesterol, it’s important that you talk with your healthcare provider before starting a new exercise routine.
Medications to Lower LDL
When lifestyle changes do not suffice in dealing with cholesterol, medication may be necessary. The most common type used to treat this condition is statin, which is found in popular drugs such as Lipitor, Crestor, and Zocor. Statins help to lower cholesterol by inhibiting the enzymes responsible for creating it, and it’s been proven to reduce LDL levels by anywhere from 20% to 55%.
Side effects associated with statins include muscle aches and mild liver problems, but compared to the dangers of high cholesterol, their risks are negligible. Keep in mind that taking statins is not a license to ignore your diet. If you’re still eating high-fat, high-cholesterol foods, there’s not much good that medication will do for you.
There are several other medication options for treating cholesterol, but they are not as common and are typically used only if statins can’t fix the problem. One type, bile acid resins, work to lower cholesterol by preventing it from being absorbed by the body, and it’s been shown to reduce LDL levels by as much as 30% in some people. Additionally, doctors may recommend other medications such as fibric acid or niacin, both of which lower LDL cholesterol while giving a boost to your HDL levels.
Alternative Treatments to Lower LDL
Alternative treatments are generally not recommended by doctors, but some people claim to have great success with them. If you decide that they are a good fit for you, it’s important to remember that these should act as supplements to your traditional cholesterol treatments—never rely on alternative remedies alone.
Garlic supplements are considered one of the most popular alternative cholesterol treatments because of studies that indicate they have the ability to lower total cholesterol levels. However, it’s important to note that these changes are only short term, and your cholesterol will likely go back to the way it was once you stop using them. Additionally, garlic acts as a blood thinner, so you shouldn’t take it if you use other blood thinning medications or are at risk of uncontrolled bleeding, which is present in conditions such as hemophilia.