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Increased cholesterol levels in the body may build up in deposits, also known as plaques, along the inside walls of arteries. These plaques may narrow the diameter of the arteries and thereby hamper blood supply. Elevated levels of bad cholesterol increase the risk of heart diseases, stroke, peripheral artery disease etc by narrowing down the arteries. If the cholesterol plaques rupture, they can cause formation of blood clots, which in turn prevents blood flow. This can be a cause of heart attack. So, to reduce the risk of heart problems and various other problems, one must know how to reduce cholesterol fast. Let’s see different ways to reduce blood cholesterol levels.
How to Reduce Cholesterol Fast?
Although high cholesterol levels can be inherited, but mostly it happens due to unhealthy lifestyle, obesity, smoking, lack of exercise etc. Therefore, it is preventable and treatable. A healthy low cholesterol breakfast to begin with, regular exercises, avoidance of smoking and alcohol etc can go a long way toward reducing high cholesterol levels.
1. Reduced Intake of Saturated Fats and Trans Fats
A healthy diet and few changes in the diet can reduce cholesterol levels and improve heart health. Saturated fats are fat molecules that have no double bonds between carbon molecules and are typically solid at room temperature. Consumption of foods containing saturated fats raises the blood cholesterol levels in the body, and high levels of LDL cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. So, one should reduce the intake of saturated fats containing foods. Saturated fats are mainly present in meat, fatty beef, poultry with skin, butter, cheese and other dairy products etc. Apart from this, fried and baked foods also contain high levels of saturated fats.
Trans fats are partially hydrogenated oils. Trans fats make the vegetable oil more stable. That’s why they are used in food products such as spreads, pastries etc and they also provide more texture. Trans fats also raise cholesterol levels. So, one should also avoid trans fats containing foods.
Unsaturated fats such as monounsaturated fats reduce bad cholesterol (LDL), oxidation of lipoproteins and increase good cholesterol (HDL), thereby having healthy benefits. Studies have shown the benefits of monounsaturated fats over polyunsaturated fats in reducing the oxidation of fats and cholesterol. Good sources of unsaturated fats include olives and olive oil, canola oil, tree nuts such as almonds, walnuts, cashews and hazelnuts etc.
2. Intake of Omega-3 fatty acids rich Foods
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential polyunsaturated fatty acids and also known as n-3 fatty acids. N-3 fatty acids are known to have numerous benefits for heart health. Although human body is capable of synthesizing most of the fats but not omega-3 fatty acids. So, these essential fatty acids need to be obtained through diet. There are three main types namely: docosahexanoic acid (DHA), eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and alpha linolenic acid (ALA).
Omega-3 fatty acids reduce bad cholesterol, triglycerides, have antithrombotic and anti- inflammatory effects, and improve blood lipid profile. DHA can be obtained from breast milk or maternal milk, fish and algae oil. EPA rich foods include fatty fish or fish oil such as salmon, herring, mackerel, sardine etc, various edible seaweed etc. ALA are found only in plant derived sources such as chia seeds, flax seed, many vegetable oils, nuts etc. Other foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids are soybeans, walnuts, canola oil etc.
3. Dietary Fiber Rich Foods
Soluble dietary fibers bind with cholesterol and its precursors in the digestive system and drag them out of the body. Dietary fiber also reduces the absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream. Diets rich in soluble dietary fibers such as beta- glucan, pectin, guar gum, psyllium etc include oats, oatmeal, barley, whole grains, beans, pumpkin seeds, cabbage etc. Fruits such as apples, grapes, pineapples, strawberries, citrus fruits etc are rich in pectin, which is a type of soluble fiber and lowers bad cholesterol. By reducing the blood cholesterol levels, they also lower the risk of heart disease.
Pumpkin seeds contain plant sterols, which help in lowering the low density lipoprotein or bad cholesterol. So, regular consumption of pumpkin seeds have positive impact on the blood cholesterol levels. Pumpkin seeds oil also helps in improving health by lowering cholesterol levels and providing various vitamins and minerals.
Phytosterols and dietary fiber contents of the cabbage help in lowering the bad cholesterol. The phytosterols block the absorption of cholesterols into the digestive tract and thereby reduces the bad cholesterol levels.
Foods fortified with sterols and stanols extracted from plants gum also help to lower the bad cholesterol levels in the body. Foods ranging from margarine, granola bars to orange juice etc are available fortified commercially. Fiber supplements are also available such as psyllium, but these offer the least appealing way to get soluble dietary fibers.
4. Regular Exercise
Regular exercises help to reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase good cholesterol in the body. These effects are more beneficial in obese persons. Physical activity reduces the risk of developing coronary artery disease. An average of 30- 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity exercises such as walking, bicycling, gardening, playing tennis, jogging or running, swimming etc are beneficial for heart health and overall health. Regularly doing these exercises improves cholesterol levels. So, one must do regular exercises to maintain the cholesterol levels, protect from cardiovascular diseases and also overall health.
5. Avoid Smoking
Smokers have a lower concentration of good cholesterol than non- smokers. Quitting smoking is associated with an increase in good cholesterol (HDL) and the increase occurs rapidly. Although the mechanism is not fully understood yet, one popular explanation is that smoking alters free fatty acids release, which in turn affects the VLDL and LDL concentrations to favour their accumulation in the blood and contribute to a lower HDL cholesterol. The adverse effects of smoking appear to be rapidly reversible on quitting, so one should avoid smoking to reduce bad cholesterol levels in the body.
6. Avoid Excess Alcohol Intake
Moderate amounts of alcohol such as 5 ounce serving of red wine per day has been correlated with healthy cholesterol levels. Drinking more alcohol or excess consumption of wine, beer, hard liquor etc causes increase in cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Daily alcohol consumption also causes damage to liver, pancreas etc. So, one should avoid excess alcohol intake.
7. Maintain Body Weight
In overweight or obese people, there is a higher chance of increased bad cholesterol and triglycerides level and decreased good cholesterol levels. Obesity increases cardiovascular risk by increasing fasting plasma triglycerides, high LDL cholesterol levels, elevated blood glucose and insulin levels, reduced HDL cholesterol, and high blood pressure. So, one must maintain body weight to keep the cholesterol levels balanced. One should exercise regularly and take a balanced diet to maintain the body weight.
8. Intake of Icosapent Ethyl
Icosapent ethyl is a highly purified eicosapentanoic acid ethyl ester, a component of fish oil. Recently, a study done by Dr. Deepak Bhatt et al, examined the effects of icosapent ethyl on lowering triglycerides levels and cardiovascular risk reduction. Icosapent ethyl, lowers triglyceride levels. The product is available for the patients with high triglycerides, by prescription only. The Amarin pharma company, who supported the study is expected to apply for FDA approval.
Increased cholesterol levels, especially bad or LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, in the body increase cardiovascular health risk. So, one must reduce the bad cholesterol levels and increase the good cholesterol levels to keep the heart healthy. There are many natural ways to maintain the cholesterol levels such as reduced intake of saturated and trans fats, increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids, increased intake of soluble dietary fiber rich foods, avoidance of smoking and alcohol, maintain body weight etc. Apart from that medicines are also available to reduce cholesterol levels. One, must take doctor’s consultation for reducing cholesterol by medicines.