Heart health

Thursday 10 December 2009, 12:16

How to reduce blood cholesterol

Some helpful tips to lower cholesterol

How to reduce blood cholesterol

Cholesterol is a natural fatty substance in the human body, that plays an essential role as a constituent of cell membranes and as a precursor of steroid hormones and bile acids. But when cholesterol blood levels are too high, the formation of atherosclerotic plaques in the walls of arteries may occur and lead to serious cardiovascular problems (such as heart attacks, strokes and other consequences of atherosclerosis).


However high cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia) is a largely preventable and treatable condition. A healthy diet, regular exercise and sometimes medications are the most effective means to reduce blood cholesterol (especially LDL-cholesterol, also called “bad” cholesterol).


Diet and exercise. Lifestyle changes are the first line of therapy for preventing and treating hypercholesterolemia. It is important to lose excess weight, eat a healthy diet and take regular exercise.


A low cholesterol diet should be low in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol (found in organ meats, egg yolks and whole milk products) and rich in fiber and other cholesterol-lowering foods (whole grains, fruit and vegetables). Monounsaturated fats (found in olive and peanut oils) are better than both polyunsaturated and saturated fats in lowering LDL cholesterol. Fish is a healthier option than meat and poultry: it contains less saturated fat and cholesterol and is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help promote heart health.


Regular exercise should be a key part of any cholesterol-lowering treatment plan. Current recommendations are 30-60 minutes of exercise a day. Another important care measure is quitting smoking.


Medications. Medications can help lower cholesterol, if lifestyle changes are not sufficient to lower total cholesterol to healthy levels (especially LDL cholesterol). The most commonly prescribed medications for lowering cholesterol are statins, bile-acid-binding resins and cholesterol absorption inhibitors.


In addition a few natural products and supplements have been demonstrated to lower cholesterol, such as artichoke, barley, beta-sitosterol, sitostanol, blond psyllium, garlic and oat bran.


In any case, both medications and supplements do not have to be considered as an alternative to lifestyle changes, but as complementary to them.


By Chiara De Carli

Category: Heart health

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