Cholesterol refers to organic compounds, lipids entering the body with food, as well as synthesized by the liver. One of the varieties of natural fatty alcohols, cholesterol is needed to ensure normal human life.
Excess cholesterol in the blood – the primary link in the process of occurrence of atherosclerotic, or cholesterol deposits, plaques in blood vessels. Normally, the level of total cholesterol found in the blood as an element of lipoprotein is in the range of 3.6-5.2 mmol / l, and with age due to physiological processes, the upper limit of normal increases depending on age and the patient’s sex. With more indicators that exceed the upper limit, the risk of atherosclerosis increases, increasing significantly when the indicator reaches 6.2 mmol / l or more.
By circulating in the blood, cholesterol, with its excess, tends to stick together and accumulate in the arteries. Accumulations or plaques impede the movement of blood, creating obstructions to blood flow and narrowing the lumen of blood vessels, which causes oxygen starvation and insufficient blood supply to tissues and organs. When a part of the plaque disintegrates, it contributes to the formation of a blood clot, which provokes thromboembolism, heart attacks, strokes and can be fatal.
However, as well as excess, lack of cholesterol is dangerous. This compound, for example, is one of the important advantages of breastfeeding: cholesterol is important for the development of the brain of infants, has an impact on the production of necessary hormones, musculoskeletal, immune, reproductive systems, and in mixtures of substitutes its content is significantly inferior to mother’s milk. Other important cholesterol functions include:
- ensuring the strength and elasticity of cell membranes;
- a necessary component of the synthesis of cortisone, vitamin D, regulation of the balance of phosphorus and calcium in the body;
- participate in the functioning of the nervous and immune system;
- protect blood cells (erythrocytes) from exposure to various types of hemolytic poisons;
- necessary component for producing hormones of the reproductive system, etc.
Reduced levels of “good” cholesterol lead to disorders in the sexual and reproductive sphere, inability to conceive, loss of libido, and depressive states with a high probability of suicidal outcome, disorders of digestive function, the development of osteoporosis, diabetes, hemorrhagic stroke. Because of the danger of lowering the level of total cholesterol in the blood when taking statins, first of all, experts recommend changing the diet, lifestyle and try to reduce cholesterol levels without drugs. To do this, you need to know the techniques that help reduce cholesterol without drugs, as well as which products reduce cholesterol in the blood, and which, on the contrary, increase.
How to lower cholesterol without drugs?
Blood cholesterol is contained in the form of a compound of lipid and protein, lipoprotein. Depending on the type of complex compound in general cholesterol, as determined by blood analysis, high-molecular lipoproteins (“good” cholesterol) and low-molecular (“bad”) are isolated. The ratio of good and bad lipoproteins is called the atherogenic coefficient, calculating it by the formula: the difference between total and high cholesterol is divided by the indicator of low molecular weight lipoprotein. The optimal ratio is 3 or less. At a factor of 5, there is talk of high risk or the onset of atherosclerosis.
The practice of reducing cholesterol with medicines has shown that when taking one of the most effective substances – statins – the level of total cholesterol decreases, both “good” (by 30%) and “bad” (by 50%), which negatively affects the body. In pharmacological practice, two groups of drugs are used for therapy – fibrates and statins. Fibrates are considered effective in combination with statins.
Physical activity to regulate cholesterol levels
This factor affects all people with elevated levels of cholesterol in the blood, but especially for those who lead a sedentary lifestyle, combining sedentary work with low activity at rest. Hypodynamia is also one of the main reasons for the formation of overweight, which also increases the likelihood of increasing cholesterol levels.
Any physical exertion – walking, running, swimming, sports, gymnastic exercises – activates the body’s metabolism and helps to eliminate the stagnation of bile in the biliary tract, which helps self-excretion of excess cholesterol.
Particularly recommended is walking and running: these sports, in accordance with research, help in the best way to maintain the circulatory system in good shape and clean the blood from excess cholesterol.
Bad habits and general body health
There is a strong correlation between overweight and elevated levels of cholesterol in the blood. Weight reduction helps lower cholesterol. If the achievement of a normal body mass index corresponding to the age and sex characteristics and growth parameters is not feasible with the help of diet and physical activity, consultation of a specialist is necessary.
Tobacco smoking is not just a bad habit. Constant intake of nicotine, tobacco smoke and carcinogens has a detrimental effect on the entire body, including an increased risk of developing atherosclerosis: a slower metabolism leads to an accumulation of cholesterol and a decrease in its rate of withdrawal from the circulatory system.
Alcohol is a factor that has a negative effect on health. There is an unconfirmed theory that moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages (no more than 200 ml of dry wines per day) can positively influence the cholesterol reduction process. There is no unequivocal opinion on this issue due to the lack of large-scale studies, but the harm from daily ingestion of even such doses of alcohol exceeds the possible benefits.
Bad eating habits also affect blood cholesterol levels. Food production habits and excessive sugar in food and beverages are also a negative factor contributing to the formation of cholesterol plaques and the development of atherosclerosis. Exclusion from the diet of products with hydrogenated fats (margarine, products with milk fat substitute, most confectionery, convenience foods, fast food, fried foods, etc.) helps reduce blood cholesterol by reducing the intake of low molecular weight lipoproteins contained in this group . Limiting the consumption of sugar in any form (in beverages, dishes, sweets, etc.) reduces the blood glucose index and contributes to the development of “good” low molecular weight cholesterol.
Thus, a healthy lifestyle, physical activity and the rejection of bad habits help lower cholesterol without medication.
Diseases, conditions and medications that increase cholesterol levels
In the body, cholesterol can accumulate, and because of the presence of disease or taking certain medications. Increased levels of cholesterol are caused by disorders of the kidneys, liver, pancreatic diseases, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, hypertension, hypothyroidism.
Increased cholesterol levels can also be a side effect of some medications. Most often this effect occurs with long courses of immunosuppressants, hormonal steroids, and female oral contraceptives. With prolonged therapy with drugs of these groups, regular control of cholesterol level is necessary.
The physiological conditions in which there is a natural increase in the concentration of cholesterol without adverse effects include the gestational period. Changes in hormonal levels during pregnancy contribute to an increased production of lipoproteins, and a blood test can show an excess of the norms of total cholesterol by almost two times. This is the physiological norm that helps the development of the fetus and the preservation of the mother’s health. Without concomitant risk factors (diseases of the pregnant woman, pathologies, dysfunctions that can increase with a high concentration of lipoproteins), this condition does not require correction and medical intervention, cholesterol does not harm the body and its performance returns to normal after delivery.
High cholesterol: dietary guidelines
Proper nutrition is referred to as the main non-drug method of lowering cholesterol. However, before asking what products reduce cholesterol in the blood, it is necessary to find out which types of food and beverages contribute to its improvement: it is impossible to achieve a positive effect by eating “cholesterol-burning” products in combination with harmful food.
The main substance that affects the growth of cholesterol, is fat, so the diet for this disease is based on a significant reduction in foods rich in this substance. It is necessary to limit or completely eliminate from the daily diet products such as:
- fatty meat and poultry;
- high-fat sauces (including mayonnaise and salad dressings based on it);
- strong meat, fish broths and soups;
- pastries, sweets, confectionery, chocolate;
- offal of any type;
- milk and dairy products, including butter, high fat content (more than 5%).
It is also not recommended to use strong tea, coffee, cocoa-containing and sweet carbonated drinks.
Foods with refractory and hydrogenated fats are categorically excluded: these substances simultaneously increase the level of low molecular weight cholesterol and reduce the amount of “good” high molecular weight.
You should eat regularly, fully, giving preference to gentle processing of products: cooking, baking, stewing, steaming or grilling, minimizing roasting and the use of oil or fat. During the day, 3 main meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and one or two additional meals (second breakfast, afternoon snack) should be observed.
Drinking regimen is also important: it is necessary to drink 2 liters (8 glasses) of liquid, preferably pure water, herbal teas, compotes, fruit drinks, freshly squeezed juices per day.
Folk recipes and cholesterol-lowering foods
Products that are a natural regulator of cholesterol levels are used to reduce the amount of “bad” and increase the level of “good” cholesterol in its pure form in the diet, as well as in the form of tinctures, decoctions, and teas in alternative medicine. And in fact, and in another method of application it is necessary to remember about the presence of contraindications: for example, 2-3 cloves of raw garlic (as a folk remedy, chopped garlic is infused in olive oil or alcohol and used as a sauce for dishes and tincture used dropwise) It helps not only to reduce cholesterol, but also to strengthen the walls of blood vessels. This method, however, is not recommended for people with diseases of the digestive tract. Therefore, before starting a similar nutritional therapy, it is necessary to take into account possible contraindications, allergic reactions and the individual characteristics of the organism.
- Phostosterins for lowering cholesterol
Plant styrene (phytosterols) are the most beneficial substances for correcting cholesterol: they help increase high-density lipoproteins, while lowering low-molecular-cholesterol levels. Phytosterols are part of nutritional supplements, but they can be obtained with food no less effectively.
Avocado is considered one of the most popular foods rich in vegetable styrene: according to the results, the daily inclusion of half of the fruit in the menu for 30 days (subject to nutrition) helps reduce cholesterol by 8%, while the level of high-density lipoproteins increases by 13%. A low-fat diet for the same period provides a decrease of 5%.
The effectiveness of the use of various products for the correction of cholesterol levels is based on the amount of plant styrenes in each individual form. You should know that the same products in the feedstock after industrial processing vary in composition and content of both useful and harmful substances. For example, the calculation of the amount of phytosterols in olive oil is given for the first-pressed oil by the cold method, and if you replace it with cheaper or refined versions, you should not expect a similar effect.
Product Content of phytosterols, mg / 100 g of product Germinated wheat (grain) 400 Brown rice, bran 400 Sesame 400 Sunflower, seeds 300 Pistachios 300 Pumpkin seeds 265
Phytosterol-rich foods also include pine nuts, linseed oil and seeds (and their mixture, Urbech), almonds, cold-pressed olive oil, and the avocado already mentioned.
- Fish oil
In pure form or directly in fish, fish oil is very useful with elevated cholesterol, as it refers to natural statins. Omega-3 fatty acid is responsible for the regulation of lipid levels and adjusts the ratio of high and low density lipoproteins.
The highest content of fatty acids in the ratio with the least ability of tissues to accumulate mercury is observed in wild varieties of salmon and sardines. It is necessary to remember the rules of thermal processing of fish: in the process of frying, most of the fatty acids are destroyed, so boiled, stewed, baked or steamed fish should be used efficiently for food.
- The effect of fiber on cholesterol
Studies prove: if you start every day with oatmeal (not instant), then during the month the level of lipoproteins decreases by 5%. The same effect is observed when the menu includes a large number of other cereals, whole-grain bread, legumes (especially lentils and soybeans), flax seeds and oat bran.
Fiber-rich foods help regulate cholesterol: two months of daily intake of 100 g of bran helps to reduce the overall level of lipoproteins by 14% on average, and also help reduce body weight and improve digestion.
Bran can be mixed with cereals to make porridge, add to kefir, yogurt, and also replace ordinary bread and biscuits with different variations with oat bran.
One of the most common and fiber-rich foods available to all segments of the population is white cabbage. For therapeutic purposes, it is recommended to include in the menu 100 g of fresh, stewed, boiled or sauerkraut per day.
- Polyphenols in berries and fruits
Correction of the overall level of lipoproteins can be achieved by increasing the production of high molecular weight compounds. Polyphenols – substances that stimulate the production of high-density lipoproteins – are found in olive oil, as well as in red and purple fruits: blueberries, cranberries, pomegranate, dark grapes, cranberries, strawberries, strawberries, chokeberry. 150 g of fruit or fruit puree per day for 60 days contributes to an increase in the amount of “good” cholesterol by an average of 5%, and cranberries with the same volume – by 10%.
Juices and purees can be consumed not only in its pure form, but also to prepare berry mixtures, combined with desserts (low-fat cottage cheese, yogurt), make mixed nectars and fruit drinks.
In grapes, dense peels and seeds are recognized as the most useful, and they can also be consumed inside. At the same time, the use of grape wine in reducing cholesterol is exaggerated: the value of active substances in the processing of juice into an alcoholic drink decreases, and the number of possible side effects increases.
- Garlic helps lower cholesterol: how to use it
Fresh garlic cloves contain a fairly high concentration of a natural statin. With daily inclusion of 2-3 teeth in the menu, a positive effect is noted.
Garlic must be consumed without heat treatment. It can be added to ready-made meals (steamed vegetables, salads, soups) in a chopped form, draw olive oil on garlic and use it as a salad dressing (1 tablespoon per day). To achieve the effect, a long and regular intake of garlic is necessary, which is not recommended for people with diseases of the stomach and intestines.
- Magnesium with high cholesterol
Cholesterol in the blood is dangerous not only by accumulation, but also by the ability to “stick” to the walls of the arteries and form cholesterol plaques. Normally, up to a certain amount of cholesterol, the cells lining the inner walls of blood vessels are able to repel lipoproteins. Free-flowing low-density cholesterol can be eliminated from the body.
But with a decrease in the amount of magnesium in the tissues, this ability decreases, and the triglycerides are easily deposited on the walls of the arteries. Eating foods containing high amounts of magnesium helps prevent atherosclerosis and remove “bad” cholesterol from the walls of the circulatory system.
White cabbage is rich in magnesium, especially in pickled form, baked potatoes, legumes (beans, red beans, lentils), bananas, wheat and soybean sprouts, nuts and seeds.
- Effect of vitamin D
Vitamin D in fat-soluble form can be taken in the form of medicines or food supplements, as well as contribute to its independent synthesis in the body, staying outdoors in sunny weather.
This vitamin effectively reduces the level of low-density lipoproteins and contributes to the increase of high-molecular compounds. Studies also prove the presence of a high level of vitamin D in the body and a reduced risk of developing diseases of the cardiovascular system.
Stimulation of the natural production of a vitamin in the body is preferable, and it is necessary to consult a specialist before taking supplements containing it, since there are a number of contraindications (diseases and pathologies of the thyroid gland, liver, kidneys, etc.).