How To Reduce Bad Cholesterol – The Basics

Over the last few decades, heart disease has quickly become the leading cause of death in the U.S.  This alarming fact has led to countless studies to figure out what is causing this rise.  While new studies are published almost on a daily basis, it has been concluded that high levels of bad cholesterol is a strong indication that heart disease and ultimately a heart attack may be pending.  Therefore, learning how to reduce bad cholesterol is a goal for many people.

What is “bad” cholesterol?
The first thing to understand is that the body actually needs cholesterol for many functions.  Cholesterol is used to build hormones, makes up a large portion of your brain, is used as a protective layer for the cells in your body, as well as a number of other useful functions.  However, too much of a good thing can eventually be bad for you.  This is the case for cholesterol.

What is actually being referred to when “bad cholesterol” is mentioned is a form of lipoprotein called low-density lipoprotein (LDL).  Lipoproteins are particles that carry fat and cholesterol through the body.  As these lipoproteins release the fat that they are carrying, the amount of protein making up the lipoprotein exceeds the amount of fats being carried.  At this point it is called a high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which is referred to as “good cholesterol”.

If you have received a blood test and have been told by your doctor that you have high cholesterol then that means that you have high LDL levels.  It is the high levels of LDLs that we want to reduce in order to decrease the risk of heart attack in the future.

Lowering Bad Cholesterol With Diet

The simplest and often the first choice for lowering cholesterol levels is by controlling what you eat and drink.  This strategy consists of two parts.  First, choose foods that are low in cholesterol and have the best types of fats to consume.  This will help reduce the rise of LDL levels.  Not all dietary fats are “bad” fats.  It is important to learn which fats are okay, or even beneficial to eat.  In general, it is best to cut back on the consumption of fats as well as foods coming from animals, which is the source of dietary cholesterol.  The second part consists of choosing foods that help lower and control cholesterol.  By selected foods that have certain nutrients you are able to reduce bad cholesterol.

Exercise Your Way To Lower LDL Levels

Yes, exercise strengthens your heart and reduces the risk of heart disease.  However, exercise also can alter your cholesterol levels.  With regular exercise, HDL levels increase and LDL levels decrease.  Many people are turned off with the thought of “exercise”, thinking that they do not have the time or that it is just too hard.  It is important to realize that the exercise needed is attainable by anyone and not just Olympic athletes.  A simple walk every evening is a great start.  With the right planning and with enough consideration, you can include a regular exercise routine into your schedule that you actually look forward to.

Other Lifestyle Changes Can Make A Difference

Changing your diet or incorporating a new exercise routine is a lifestyle change.  However, there are other lifestyle changes that can not only help lower cholesterol levels but will further reduce your risk of a heart attack.  Smokers have increased cholesterol levels and have double the risk for a heart attack.  It is understood that quitting smoking is easier said than done.  With the giant health advantages provided with quitting it is definitely worth the struggle to find a system, plan or even medication that can help you successfully quit.

Taking Medication To Lower Bad Cholesterol Levels

Unless for urgent cases, taking medication to control cholesterol levels should be the last step after changing your diet and incorporating exercise into your routine.  There are effective prescription cholesterol drugs, known as “statins”, that can wipe out LDL cholesterol, but they all come with some form of side effects.  Over-the-counter drugs and unregulated drugs are becoming more common, but these do not always have the positive effects that they are advertised to have while also having side effects.  With the advice of your doctor, you may be able to use some drugs, such as Lipitor or Crestor, to manage your cholesterol levels.