Cholesterol is a fat-like substance found in the bloodstream. The liver and various cells in the body make cholesterol. Certain foods, such as eggs, meat, and dairy products, also contain cholesterol. Cholesterol allows the body to make vitamin D, hormones, and bile, acids that are used in the digestion of fats.
Generally, people are more familiar with cholesterol when it comes to having “good” and “bad” cholesterol readings. The good cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL), helps remove low-density lipoprotein (LDL) from the body. LDL cholesterol is the type of cholesterol that can build up on the inside walls of your arteries, hardening and narrowing them. This condition is called atherosclerosis, which often leads to heart disease.
The levels of cholesterol that people have in their blood are influenced by weight, age, heredity, sex, and diet. Medications and medical conditions also affect cholesterol levels. Diet choices, regular checkups after age 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 control their levels using medications and alternative therapies such as nutritional and herbal supplements, as well as lifestyle choices.
Herbs to lower cholesterol
Certain herbal extracts and supplements show efficacy in reducing high cholesterol levels. If a person decides to use them, they should consult with their doctor to determine any contraindications to the use of herbal extracts or supplements.
Garlic causes a short-term decrease in total cholesterol. Studies have shown that garlic reduces LDL (bad cholesterol) by up to 10 mg / dL and reduces triglycerides by up to 20 mg / dL. It also contains antioxidants that can prevent oxidation, selenium to cleanse the blood, and vitamin C to reduce the damage of LDL cholesterol. It also contains the phytochemical quercetin that has been linked to decreased death from heart disease, reduced risk of clotting, and increased flow-mediated dilation of the 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 shortly after cutting, is best because cooking, processing, and drying destroys this valuable gas.
Guggilipid, an Ayurvedic remedy is credited with lowering cholesterol; its efficacy 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 that lower LDL cholesterol.
Artichoke leaf extract reduces cholesterol levels, but its impact on LDL cholesterol is not conclusive.
Yarrow, the plant compounds in yarrow resemble cholesterol and interfere with its absorption by the body.
Holy Basil also lowers the overall cholesterol levels in the bloodstream.
Dietary support to lower cholesterol
Many doctors advocate the benefits of a healthy diet emphasizing plant food sources to lower and control 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 options significantly lower harmful cholesterol levels.
Fiber, especially soluble fiber in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, lowers cholesterol levels.
Walnuts can also lower cholesterol. A daily serving of 1.5 oz. of almonds, pistachios, walnuts or another variety of nuts reduces the risk of heart disease.
Phytosterols, plant compounds found in small amounts in unrefined fruits, vegetables, and grains, prevent intestinal absorption of cholesterol. They have been found to lower LDL cholesterol.
Omega-3 fatty acids lower levels of triglycerides, the form of cholesterol produced by the liver, keep blood thinning at a healthy level, and prevent plaque from binding to arteries. They also slow down 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 to 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 larger size makes it more difficult for cholesterol to penetrate the walls of the blood vessels and stay there, leading to atherosclerosis.
According to WebMD, “Most public health organizations recommend a minimum of 30 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous exercise, such as walking, jogging, biking, or gardening,” to reap the great health benefits of low cholesterol levels.
Conclusion and safety
Using complementary and alternative treatments to control high cholesterol is easy to incorporate into a person’s daily regimen. Herbal and nutritional supplements, diet options, and exercise offer easy ways to reap the benefits of lowering 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 for people already on a medication regimen or for those who may have other restrictions or health conditions.