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High levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), aka "the bad cholesterol," can increase your risk of heart attacks or stroke. Keeping your LDL low helps to protect your heart. The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) recommends an average target LDL cholesterol of less than 100 mg/dL.
NCEP recommendations for keeping LDL cholesterol low are:
- Keep your blood glucose levels under control.
- Work with your healthcare team to develop a meal and exercise plan that you can stick with.
- Eat healthy fats (from fish and plant foods) and avoid trans fat (found in processed foods).
- Choose whole-grains for cereals and breads.
- Get at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per day.
- If you smoke -- quit!
- Maintain a healthy weight.
Ways to lower LDL cholesterol are to include diet and exercise into everyday life. Eating a diet low in saturated and trans fats and high in fruits, vegetables and seeds. This can be supplemented by daily routine exercise. However, for some people, medications may be required to bring cholesterol down to safe levels.
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Diet, exercise, and supplements.
As a gastroenterologist, I practice what I preach with my advice here, since I must keep my LDL cholesterol low.
LDL cholesterol is measured in a blood test and is the "bad cholesterol." Risk for heart attack and stroke can be reduced by lowering LDL. While statin drugs can lower LDL by as much as 70%, there are ways to lower LDL without taking medication:
- Diet: A healthy balanced diet is the foundation of lowering cholesterol. Emphasize plants, fish, legumes, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, because elements of plant-based diets directly improve blood cholesterol profiles. Also limit intake of full fat dairy, red meat, eggs, and cheese.
- Exercise: Regular aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes 5 - 7 times a week is beneficial.
- Supplements: Plant Phytosterols: A daily serving of plant sterols (about 2 grams) in fortified foods and as supplements can lower LDL by about 15 percent. Phytosterol supplements are widely available in groceries, pharmacies, and vitamin/health food stores, and I personally take one.
- Supplements: Soluble Fiber (Psyllium): Eating around 10 grams each day of psyllium found in some foods and products, such as Metamucil and Konsyl (or generic equivalents) can lower LDL by 5 - 10 percent. I personally take more than 10 grams of a psyllium supplement every day.
- Supplements: Niacin: A daily dose can lower LDL levels by about 20 percent, but niacin has a risk of side effects (flushing, elevated blood sugar), especially if it is combined with a statin drug. I don't take a niacin supplement.
The most effective way to optimize your cholesterol profile and prevent heart disease is via diet and exercise. It's actually quite simple too. Remember that 75 percent of your cholesterol is produced by your liver, which is influenced by your insulin levels.
Therefore, if you optimize your insulin level, you will automatically optimize your cholesterol and reduce your risk of both diabetes and heart disease. There is NO magic pill to cure heart disease, as the underlying cause is insulin resistance caused by eating too many sugars, grains and especially fructose.
So, my primary recommendations for safely regulating your cholesterol and reducing your risk of heart disease include:
- Reduce, with the plan of eliminating grains and fructose from your diet. This is one of the best ways to optimize your insulin levels, which will have a positive effect on not just your cholesterol, but also reduces your risk of diabetes and heart disease, and most other chronic diseases. Use my Nutrition Plan to help you determine the ideal diet for you, and consume a good portion of your food raw.
- Get plenty of high quality, animal-based omega 3 fats, such as krill oil, and reduce your consumption of damaged omega-6 fats (trans fats, vegetable oils) to balance out your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio.
- Include heart-healthy foods in your diet, such as olive oil, coconut and coconut oil, organic raw dairy products and eggs, avocados, raw nuts and seeds, and organic grass-fed meats.
- Optimize your vitamin D levels by getting proper sun exposure or using a safe tanning bed.
- Exercise daily. Make sure you incorporate peak fitness exercises, which also optimizes your human growth hormone (HGH) production.
- Avoid smoking or drinking alcohol excessively.
- Be sure to get plenty of good, restorative sleep.
Always consult with your health care practitioner before implementing any changes to your workout or diet.
Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.