Ways To Lower Ldl Cholesterol Naturally – Cholesterol is perhaps the most misunderstood nutrient. It basically acts as a bogeyman for most of us, so there are tons of articles out there that promise to provide the most effective natural ways to lower cholesterol.
It makes sense how he was cast in this role. After all, the statistics can be staggering. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists these dangerous facts about cholesterol:
Ways To Lower Ldl Cholesterol Naturally
By reviewing those disturbing facts, you can magically eliminate all cholesterol from your body. However, if you manage to achieve this, you will soon regret it. Cholesterol actually has many important functions in the body, such as helping to keep your cell walls flexible and facilitating the production of many hormones.
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Before diving into my recommendations for really helpful strategies to optimize your cholesterol, let’s understand what cholesterol is, how it works in the body, and the relationship between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol.
Simply put, cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance produced by the liver. As mentioned above, your body needs some cholesterol for some basic functions. But when it starts to accumulate, problems can arise.
Cholesterol is a class of particles called blood lipids. In fact, cholesterol is the most well-known blood lipid. Although the term “blood lipid” technically refers to fat particles circulating in the blood, it is traditionally used to refer to particles in the blood that are a combination of lipids and proteins such as cholesterol.
Because cholesterol is a combination of lipids and proteins, cholesterol-containing particles in the blood are called lipoproteins. These are high-density lipoprotein (HDL), low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL). The other primary type of fat in the blood is triglycerides, which are formed when three fatty acid molecules join together.
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Each type of lipoprotein affects your health differently. For example, too much low-density lipoprotein can build up in the walls of your blood vessels, leading to clogged arteries, stroke, heart attack, and even kidney failure. However, high-density lipoproteins actually remove cholesterol deposits from blood vessel walls, thereby reducing the risk of the same negative health effects.
So when we talk about ways to lower cholesterol, the exact target of these strategies is low-density lipoproteins, not high-density lipoproteins.
The liver is the main site for the production of fatty acids and cholesterol. Fatty acids produced in the liver form triglycerides. Triglycerides and cholesterol are produced in the liver, but the liver is not capable of storing much. Therefore, they are packaged with proteins and released into the blood as very low density lipoproteins (VLDL).
VLDL molecules are the main transporter of fat from the liver to peripheral fat stores. As VLDL circulates in the blood, it stores fatty acids and cholesterol in your adipose tissue, otherwise known as body fat.
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I should briefly note here that not all triglycerides produced in the liver are released as VLDL – some may be released directly into the blood as triglycerides. This is another way in which fatty acids are transferred from the liver to adipose tissue for storage.
Adipose tissue is an ideal place to store triglycerides. Large amounts of fat can be stored in adipose tissue. Under normal conditions, an excess of triglyceride-storing factors causes fat to accumulate in adipose tissue in obesity, without any adverse effect on overall health.
Triglycerides contained in VLDL molecules are taken up by adipose tissue thanks to a protein called lipoprotein lipase. However, this enzyme is not fully effective, so adipose tissue does not completely remove VLDL. Fats in the blood become low-density lipoproteins (LDL), which return to the liver, where they are either removed from the blood or taken up by other cells in the body. This is the main way cholesterol enters the body’s tissues.
A special receptor in the membrane of the liver and other tissues plays a key role in taking cholesterol from LDL molecules. If LDL cholesterol is absorbed by the liver, it is metabolized and eliminated from the body. Conversely, cholesterol taken up by other tissues can remain and disrupt normal body functions.
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I’ve mentioned before that low-density lipoproteins have earned the infamous moniker of “bad” cholesterol. You may already know or can understand why high-density lipoprotein (HDL) is the “good” cholesterol because it clears LDL from the blood.
HDL cholesterol, also produced in the liver, transports absorbed, unused cholesterol back to the liver in a process called reverse cholesterol transport. It protects your arteries from cholesterol build-up, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
The more HDL compared to LDL in your blood, the faster cholesterol will be removed by the liver, broken down and eliminated. When evaluating cholesterol, doctors usually check your LDL:HDL ratio based on your weight.
During a physical examination, it is common to measure the concentration of these blood lipids, and if the values are outside the normal range, treatment options are recommended. This gives us a clear sense that all blood lipids are bad.
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Although high levels of some blood lipids are indeed associated with poor health outcomes, let’s first consider some of the beneficial roles of blood lipids.
Cholesterol plays many roles in the body, including helping the body produce certain hormones, vitamin D, and enzymes that help digest food. Cell membranes are mainly composed of lipids. But problems arise when you have high cholesterol, high triglycerides, or both. Too much is never a good thing.
LDL, as mentioned earlier, has the reputation of being the worst blood lipid. LDL cholesterol can build up and form plaques that harden your arteries. This condition is called atherosclerosis.
Cholesterol-containing plaques can clog arteries, leaving less room for blood to circulate. Plaques can also rupture, allowing platelets to enter the rupture site and form a blood clot. If the clot is large enough, it can stop blood flow. If it occurs in a blood vessel that supplies blood to the heart, it causes a heart attack, and if it occurs in a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain, it causes a stroke.
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Triglycerides are also a risk factor for atherosclerosis and therefore heart attacks and strokes. Recently, doctors have been paying more attention to high triglycerides as one of the main causes of metabolic syndrome. Accumulation of triglycerides in the liver has been shown to promote the progression of metabolic syndrome, which itself is a precursor to diabetes. This means that the diagnosis and treatment of metabolic syndrome are important for the prevention of diabetes.
A class of drugs called statins is widely prescribed to lower LDL cholesterol. Although statins are generally effective, they have side effects, most commonly muscle pain. The side effects of statins can be especially pronounced in older people. In some cases, that muscle pain can be reduced by switching to another type of statin or by taking a dietary supplement called coenzyme Q10 or CoQ10. One of the side effects of statins is CoQ10 depletion, and since CoQ10 contributes to the body’s energy production system, restoring healthy levels can be very beneficial.
There are other medications that help lower LDL levels, including cholesterol absorption inhibitors, fibrates, and niacin. Again, all of these drugs usually have negative side effects. Cholesterol absorption inhibitors, which block fat absorption, can cause diarrhea, fibrates can disrupt normal liver function (again, especially in the elderly), and niacin can cause itching and flushing.
Keep in mind that while these medications can help lower cholesterol, they usually have no effect on triglycerides. Fibrates are the most effective prescription medications for lowering triglycerides, but adverse effects on the liver limit their use.
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Also, among these drugs, only fibrates have been shown to effectively lower triglycerides, and their negative effects on the liver limit their use.
Therefore, while there are many prescription drugs that have been shown to be effective in lowering LDL cholesterol, many of them do not address high triglycerides. This, along with the many potential side effects associated with those drugs, prompts many to look for more natural ways to lower cholesterol.
The cholesterol myth is still going strong: You can lower your cholesterol by reducing cholesterol in your diet. It’s an illusion. Cholesterol in the blood is produced in the liver, it is not absorbed from digested food.
Although food manufacturers continue to release low-cholesterol products, the truth is that dietary cholesterol has very little effect on cholesterol levels in the body. One reason is your liver’s ability to change the amount of cholesterol it makes based on how much cholesterol is in your diet. If you consume more cholesterol from the food you eat, your liver reduces its production of cholesterol accordingly.
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