Cholesterol is a substance similar to fat found in the bloodstream. The liver and various cells in the body produce cholesterol. Certain foods, for example eggs, meat and dairy products, contain cholesterol as well. Cholesterol allows the body to manufacture Vitamin D, hormones and bile, acids used in the digestion of fat.
Generally, people are most familiar with cholesterol as it relates to having “good” and “bad” cholesterol readings. Good cholesterol, high-density lipoproteins (HDL), assists with ridding the body of low-density lipoproteins (LDL). LDL cholesterol is the type of cholesterol, which can accumulate on the interior walls of the arteries hardening and narrowing them. This condition is called atherosclerosis, which often leads to heart disease.
The levels of cholesterol people have in their bloodstream are influenced by weight, age, heredity, gender, and diet. Medications and medical conditions also affect cholesterol levels. Dietary choices, regular checkups after the age of 20 and exercise can help keep cholesterol readings at healthy levels.
People who have high cholesterol or who are at risk of developing the condition can manage their levels using medications as well as alternative therapies like herbal and nutritional supplements as well as lifestyle choices.
Herbs To Lower Cholesterol
Certain herbal supplements and extracts show efficacy for lowering high cholesterol levels. If a person decides to use them, they need to check with their physician to determine any contraindications for using herbal extracts or supplements.
- Garlic causes a short term decrease in total cholesterol. Studies have shown garlic to lower LDL (bad cholesterol) by as much as 10 mg/dL, lower Triglycerides by as much as 20 mg/dL. It also contains antioxidants that can prevent oxidation, selenium to cleanse the blood, and vitamin C to reduce damage from LDL cholesterol. It also contains the phytochemical Quercetin that has been linked to decreases in death from heart disease, reduced risk of clotting and increased flow-mediated dilation of major arteries. Fresh raw garlic also releases a short-lived gas called hydrogen sulfide that acts as an intracellular signaling compound that protects the heart. Raw garlic, eaten soon after cutting is best because cooking, processing and drying destroys this valuable gas.
- Guggilipid, an Ayurvedic remedy is credited with lowering cholesterol; its effectiveness requires further study.
- Fenugreek has been shown to lower “bad,” LDL cholesterol.
- Policosanol lowers LDL cholesterol.
- Turmeric appears to lower cholesterol levels and prevent atherosclerosis.
- Rosemary contains phytochemicals, which lower LDL cholesterol.
- Artichoke leaf extract lowers cholesterol levels, but its impact on LDL cholesterol is inconclusive.
- Yarrow the plant compounds in yarrow resemble cholesterol and interfere with its absorption by the body.
- Holy Basil also reduces overall cholesterol levels in the bloodstream.
Dietary Support to Lower Cholesterol
Many doctors advocate the benefits of a healthy diet emphasizing plant food sources for lowering and managing cholesterol levels. A high fiber diet rich in healthy fats, vitamins and antioxidants helps keep cholesterol levels in a healthy range. According to WebMD, these dietary choices significantly lower harmful cholesterol levels.
- Fiber, especially the soluble fiber in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains lower cholesterol levels.
- Nuts can reduce cholesterol as well. A daily serving of 1.5 oz. of almonds, pistachios, walnuts or other nut variety reduces the risk of heart disease.
- Phytosterols, plant compounds found in small amounts in fruits, vegetables and unrefined grains prevent the intestinal absorption of cholesterol. They have been found to lower LDL cholesterol.
- Omega-3 fatty acids lower the levels of triglycerides, the form of cholesterol produced by the liver, keep the blood thinning at a healthy level, and prevent the bonding of plaque to arteries. They also curb inflammation in the body. Fatty fish like salmon and tuna as well as flaxseed and walnuts provide these essential omega-3 fatty acids.
Exercise and Cholesterol
Exercise significantly influences cholesterol levels in the body. It facilitates the movement of cholesterol through the system by stimulating the production of enzymes responsible for moving LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream and into the liver.
The liver converts this cholesterol into bile for digestion or it becomes part of the waste excreted by the body. It also increases the size of the protein particles, which carry cholesterol in the bloodstream. This increased size makes it more difficult for cholesterol to permeate blood vessel walls and remain there leading to atherosclerosis.
According to WebMD, “most public health organizations recommend, at a minimum, 30 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous exercise, such as walking, jogging, biking, or gardening,” to gain the great health benefits of lowered cholesterol levels.”
Bottom Line And Safety
Using alternative and complementary treatment to manage high cholesterol is simple to incorporate into a person’s daily regimen. Herbal and nutritional supplementation, dietary choices, and exercise offer simple ways to reap the benefits of lower cholesterol relatively quickly.
These methods become most effective when implemented synergistically. Of course, a doctor’s recommendation should be considered when engaging in these therapies. Some complementary therapies may not be beneficial to individuals already on a regimen of medication or those who may have other health restrictions or conditions.