Updated: May 24, 2019
By Dr. Megan Touron
Cholesterol. Whether your doctor has told you to try to lower your cholesterol, or you've heard Cheerios are good for cholesterol, or you're just generally health conscious - chances are you've heard of cholesterol before. But do you actually know what it is?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance in the blood that is essential for good health. It promotes the digestion of fatty foods and the making of hormones. It is a substance made by your liver but your body can also get additional cholesterol from the foods you eat such as meats, eggs and dairy products.
While cholesterol is a necessary substance for good health, too much cholesterol can have a negative impact on your health. The nice thing though is that there are some great lifestyle changes that can be made to effectively lower your cholesterol naturally.
Good vs. Bad Cholesterol
So which type of cholesterol is good and which type is bad?
LDL, also known as low-density lipoprotein, is often called the “bad” type of cholesterol. A tip to remember this is just remember "L" stands for "low" - as in you should keep your levels of LDL cholesterol low. This is because LDL will deliver cholesterol to the body. When levels of LDL are high, there is too much cholesterol in the body causing it to build up on the blood vessel walls leading to plaques and narrowing (1). When blood vessels narrow, the blood flow to the heart and organs is decreased and can lead to heart attack or stroke (1).
The good cholesterol for the body is called HDL, high-density lipoprotein. This is considered good cholesterol for the body because it will collect additional cholesterol in the body and return it to the liver for detox. The benefits of having higher levels of HDL is that it reduces the risk of heart attack or stroke (1).
Lifestyle Changes to Lower Cholesterol
Often times, but not always, those who are overweight with an increased BMI, are seen to have elevated LDL cholesterol. Most individuals won’t have specific symptoms relating to high cholesterol so making certain lifestyle changes will reduce your risk and improve your overall quality of life.
1. Quit Smoking
Whether you have been a lifelong smoker or have just taken it up recently, it is never too late to quit smoking. When you smoke, it creates extra work for your heart causing blood pressure and heart rate to increase. Cigarette smoke also raises your bad cholesterol levels and triglycerides in the blood (2). Through quitting smoking, it can raise your good cholesterol (HDL) levels and help to eliminate that bad cholesterol (LDL) from your arteries.
It is always best for everyone to get regular physical activity. At least 30 minutes of exercise is recommended 3-5 days per week. Even if you are not accustomed to working out on a regular basis, there is no better day to start than today!
A great way to begin on a workout routine is to start with low impact exercises such as walking or an elliptical machine at a pace that increases your heart rate. By participating in a routine exercise regimen, it will help raise your HDL good cholesterol and prevent the buildup of bad cholesterol in the body (3).
3. Healthy Eating
“Every time you eat or drink, you are either feeding disease or fighting it”.
This is such a HUGE concept that seems to be forgotten time and time again. Diets composed of fried foods, fast foods, processed meats and high sugar desserts should be limited or avoided at all costs to avoid the accumulation of LDL bad cholesterol and triglycerides in the body. These foods are known to have a lot of saturated and trans fats. A diet that is full of fruits, vegetables, lean meats and whole grains is a great way to increase your HDL good cholesterol and lower your risk of heart disease and stroke (4).
An important note to make is that you want to only make incremental or slow changes when incorporating a new diet. This is so important because the main reason why it is so difficult to keep a diet is because we jump into it too fast. If we slowly incorporate individual foods into our diet we are more likely to stick with it.
4. Manage Stress
Research has shown a link between stress and elevated cholesterol. One study found that individuals with higher stress levels were linked with less healthy dietary habits and elevated body weight (5). One thing that i found to be interesting was that this was found to be more relevant in men than it was with women (5). Cortisol is a stress hormone that is released from long-term stress and this may be the mechanism how stress can increase levels of cholesterol.
An important thing to know about stress is that the best way to dealing with it is by acknowledging the cause. Once you know and understand what is causing the stress in your life, managing and dealing with the stress becomes so much easier. Great ways to manage stress include involvement in yoga, meditation, exercise, and deep breathing. Talking with a licensed professional or a trusted confidant is also a recommended form of therapy. Chiropractic care is also an amazing and effective way to reduce the effects of stress in the body.
Let's sum all of this up. You're looking for ways to lower your cholesterol, without the use of medications. We completely understand that it can be difficult to make drastic lifestyle changes, even when we know they are necessary for our health. A Reach Health & Wellness Chiropractic, we advise our patients worried about cholesterol to try quitting smoking, exercising, eating healthier, and reducing stress to manage their stress naturally. If you're ready to make these changes in your life, try consulting with a qualified physician like our chiropractors today!
If you're interested in learning more about how chiropractic care can treat cholesterol, read our article here: Can Chiropractic Care Lower My Cholesterol?
Or, click here to schedule your first visit with Reach Health & Wellness Chiropractic.
Dr. Megan Touron is the Director of Marketing and a Chiropractic Physician at Reach Health and Wellness Chiropractic. Click here for her full bio.
*This content is strictly the opinion of Dr. Meghan Touron and is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of medical advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Dr. Touron does not take responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.
Reach Health and Wellness Chiropractic is located in the Chattanooga, Tennessee area specifically in Collegedale, TN, a short distance from Ooltewah, Cleveland, East Brainerd, East Ridge, Ringgold, Apison, and Harrison.