We have been inundated with reasons why our cholesterol is too high and that it’s bad for us. Then there’s the idea that there’s “good” cholesterol and “bad cholesterol.” Then we take a ratio of the good and the bad, and voilà – we have a percentage of average risk. Who can really understand all this, and what is this science based on?

Let’s understand that cholesterol is necessary and very much needed by the human brain. A huge part of our brain is composed of cholesterol! A doctor I used to go to once told me that he had patients coming in complaining of brain fog, and when tested, their cholesterol levels were very low. When they began to eat healthy foods containing cholesterol, their clarity of thinking improved.  

So, let’s see why we need cholesterol first. Although higher levels of “bad” cholesterol have been linked to heart disease and are still problematic, the Cleveland Clinic says that we don’t have to worry anymore about eating foods high in cholesterol. (If you have diabetes, many cardiologists believe you should still avoid foods high in cholesterol.) 

Our genes are more implicated in heart disease than diet. If your body is wired genetically to create high levels of bad cholesterol, what you eat is not going to affect that. On the other hand, the field of epigenetics (how environment and your genes interact) shows us that we can quiet adverse gene expression through higher quality diet, supplements, mindfulness, etc. 

Just be sure you work with a very competent health care practitioner – you don’t want to play Russian Roulette with your health!

health care practitioner

Cholesterol is needed to maintain cell health and build cells, and it is a precursor for synthesizing things like sex hormones, the bile in the liver, and vitamin D. So, folks, we really do need it!

However, if our percentages of good to bad are out of whack, and so many of us have this problem, it’s time to go to work on our diets. Start by cutting way back or completely out the junky foods and drinks full of sugar and refined grains and other chemicals. That’s a big part of the problem. Read food labels and avoid foods containing hydrogenated oils, or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, for one big example. This has even been banned by the FDA earlier this year. 

Eat foods that are healthy – even saturated fats. For example, although many will cry out in horror, meat fat consumed in moderation will not be harmful for most people! Coconut oil, a very healthy fat, is a saturated fat so you get a green light on that.

Foods which can help lower LDL cholesterol are oats, barley, beans, eggplant, nuts, fruits such as applies, grapes, strawberries, and citrus fruits, being rich in pectin, represent soluble fiber that helps lower LDL. Fatty fishes (think mackerel, herring, tuna, salmon, trout – preferably wild caught) can also help, because they are rich in omega-e fats, which help in the battle against high triglyceride levels.

Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids are also helpful. It almost goes without saying that extra virgin olive oil is heart healthy – go for the cold-pressed ones, as needed nutrients are not lost through the heating process this way. 

A few supplements which are protective of your cholesterol levels are niacin (vitamin B-3), soluble fiber, psyllium, garlic, red yeast rice (white rice fermented with yeast), ginger, which is completely healthy for your gut as well as tasting yummy, and flaxseed. 

Make other needed lifestyle changes. If you’re a smoker, or perhaps even a drug user, STOP! I know it is much easier said than done, but please work on it because your life may depend on this.

In fact, if you quit cigarettes, after 20 minutes, your blood pressure and heart rate recover from the spiking that smoking causes. Within three months of quitting, lung and blood circulation function start to improve. Within a year, your risk of heart disease is 50% lower than people who still smoke! 

Please get enough exercise that you find invigorating and fun. You’re probably not going to continue to exercise forever if you’re not having fun doing it. You can do this in moderation – too little won’t be much help, and neither will too much! (You can actually hurt yourself by exercising too much.)

Although it is just one of many, many diverse health factors, it can be helpful to lose some weight. If you have a lot to lose, this may be especially beneficial. However, just changing your diet may help in this path to recovery.

If you enjoy alcoholic beverages, please do so in moderation. As a drug counselor and prevention specialist, I would not recommend drinking every day. In fact, a couple times a month is plenty in my opinion, and I’m talking about one to two drinks. You shouldn’t get tipsy – if you do, in my educated opinion (remember – I’m a nerd!), it’s too much. 

I cannot recommend starting mindfulness activities on a daily basis. This can even be five minutes a day! Do something you enjoy, which helps calm you, relax you, and helps you be in the present moment. Some favorites are diffusing essential oils, bubble baths, reading, taking a walk in the woods, etc. 

If you find yourself in a dangerous position with your cholesterol, you can implement natural ways to lower it and also take medication until you can lower the amounts of medication needed or stop completely. This is a good way to control for negative side effects. 

For more detailed information, visit Health And Wellness

As always, please have a happy, holistically healthy day!

Dr. P