With 1 in 8 Americans dealing with cholesterol problems, the need for safe and drugless lifestyle changes toward heart-healthy solutions has never been greater. Let’s dive into natural ways that you can do to take care of your heart and reduce the risk of heart disease while taking advantage of some other health benefits, too!
1. Plant Sterols
For people with high blood cholesterol levels, these powerful natural substances found in plants in their non-GMO, non-synthetic (free instead of ester) form block the absorption of ingested cholesterol in the small intestine.
According to The British Journal of Nutrition: “There is an urgent clinical need for a low-cost, low-risk intervention that can treat those individuals that have not responded well to dietary modification, and where pharmaceutical intervention is not desirable. Consumption of foods containing phyto- (i.e. plant) sterols has the necessary characteristics to meet that need.”5
According to the study taking this supplement for four weeks in patients with baseline elevations of plasma cholesterol, total cholesterol was reduced by 6.4% and LDL cholesterol was reduced by 10.3%. Levels of plasma HDL cholesterol and triglycerides were not affected.5
In another study, Jones of McGill University notes that sterol supplementation significantly decreased the estimated cholesterol concentrations within small, medium, and large LDL particles by 13.4, 13.5, and 14.4% respectively.6 The Mayo Clinic Proceedings quotes, “Plant sterols and exercise favorably alter lipid profiles in a way that protect against future coronary heart disease (CHD).”7
The type of sterols matters greatly. If they are in a synthetic ester form that can be ineffective and even harmful. The ones I recommend are sourced from non-GMO pine trees and are kept in the free form.
2. Organic Red Yeast Rice
Red yeast rice is a fermented rice supplement that contains a powerful chemical called a monacolin. Monacolins have cholesterol blocking properties and are actually the foundation for popular statin drugs. For this reason, this supplement must be quality and taken properly.
Red yeast rice is a safer alternative to statins for those with high cholesterol and a family history of hyperlipidemia. It has been shown by clinical studies to modulate blood lipids. One of these monacolins in RYR, monacolin K, is a functional inhibitor of the HMG-CoA reductase enzyme responsible for the synthesis of cholesterol in the body.8
The proper non-GMO, organic red yeast can have the following benefits:
- Modulation of blood lipids favorably and naturally
- Reduction of microbes known to play a role in cardiovascular disease
- Protection of the arterial lining helping to prevent atherosclerotic lesions that may lead to heart attack
- Reduction of inflammation and oxidative stress, both known to be associated with heart disease
- Favorable alteration of CRP, blood glucose, HDL, and triacylglycerol (triglycerides)
A proper RYR should also contain CoQ10 to be sure to maintain proper levels. Read more below.
CoQ10 is a must if you are on statin drugs! Statin drugs break down and stop one of the enzymes, HMG-CoA Reductase, that produces cholesterol. In the process, that enzyme is also responsible for producing Ubiquinol or CoQ10. In fact, research suggests that some statin drugs decrease serum CoQ10 levels by as much as 40%.9 So if you stop the cholesterol production you also stop the CoQ10 production as a side effect. Why does this matter?
CoQ10 is a powerful antioxidant in the body. It is a driving force behind the mitochondria (energy sources) in your muscles. Striping the body of CoQ10 stripes the body of a much needed antioxidant and damages the muscles on top of other areas of the body. The most important muscle in your body is your heart. So if you’re stripping CoQ10 from the heart muscle you actually increase heart attack risk.
Statin users often also experience side effects such as leg cramps, body cramps, muscle pain, and an increased risk of pulling or tearing tendons. Studies show taking CoQ10 negates the effects on muscles and should be used for healthy cholesterol and CoQ10 levels especially in those on statin drugs. 10
The body produces some of its own CoQ10 and it can also be consumed through fish (salmon) and organ meats. If depleted in the body supplementation is recommended.
100-200mg of ubiquinone (the active form) of CoQ10 is recommended daily, especially for those on statin drugs or with high cholesterol. The one I recommend is a very high bioavailable, natural form to allow the most benefit for cholesterol as well as chronic fatigue syndrome, congestive heart failure, angina pectoris, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, periodontal disease, asthma, age-related macular degeneration, hyperthyroidism, HIV/AIDS, and Cerebellar ataxia.
To really know where your levels are at, you can request from your cardiologist or your doctor to get your ubiquinol levels measured, and then you’ll know, especially if you are on a statin.
4. Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty acids have established themselves as a strong natural solution for heart health. The Omega 3 forms of ALA, EPA, and DHA are the oils to focus on to minimize inflammation in the body. ALA is found in seeds and plants like walnuts, chia, and flax seeds. EPA and DHA are primarily found in fish oils like salmon and krill oil.
Eating these foods in their natural, nonrancid, form is beneficial. Oils go rancid when exposed to heat so food and supplement protection is crucial for the Omega 3 to have the proper effects.
Studies show in patients with triglyceride levels above 500 mg/dl, approximately 4 g/day of EPA and DHA reduces triglyceride levels 45% and very low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels by more than 50%. 11
Outside of lower cholesterol Omega 3’s help inflammation levels and joint health. The studies have now supported that if you have proper omega-3s (1200-2400mg) going into the body, it’s equivalent to an ibuprofen or an aspirin as far as lowering inflammation in the body and lowering joint pains. 12
Omegas : Supplementation
- 2400mg of Omega 3 ALA, EPA, and DHA from ultra-pure, high-quality Organic Flaxseed, Pacific Fish. or Krill Oil
- GLA from high-quality anti-inflammatory Borage Oil
5. Follow the 3 C’s of Cholesterol Lowering Nutrition
Weight is another step in controlling cholesterol levels and is important in how the body functions and how the body responds to inflammation. Let me give you the important numbers and what to look at to really know where you are at with your nutrition and if it’s affecting your cholesterol numbers. The following numbers will help you to determine if you need to make a nutritional change.
Three blood work numbers you really want to look at:
- Insulin Levels (want <6)
- Blood Sugar Levels (want <80-100)
- Triglyceride to HDL ratio. (want <2)
If high, greater than 2, you have over twice as many triglycerides (bad fats) in your blood then you do good cholesterol to clean it all up.
If your blood sugar is high, above 80-100 and your insulin is above 6 you may be at high risk for high cholesterol problems. When too much sugar, especially fructose, enters the bloodstream and hits the liver it is instantly turned to triglycerides and bad cholesterol. This is why your Triglyceride to HDL ratio is also important to calculate. Too much sugar equals high triglycerides.
Focus on sugar. Eliminating bad fats is important but sugar needs to be in the spotlight. In fact, the right fats are actually helpful. A Medical Research Council Survey showed men eating butter ran half the risk of developing heart disease as those there were using margarine.13 Fake foods and sugars are driving bad cholesterol problems.
Here are three ways toward a healthy diet to lose weight quickly, keep the weight down, and help lower cholesterol within normal ranges.
1. Cut All Forms of Sugar Out
- No: Bread (even whole grains), Flours, Grains, crackers, sodas, and sugary drinks
- Most Fruits (except granny smith apples, berries, grapefruit, and lemon/lime)
- Tubers (potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc)
- Anything ending in –ose (fructose, glucose, maltose, etc). Careful with your condiments!
- All sweeteners (cane, syrups, agave, honey, Splenda, sweet-n-low, equal)
- Use stevia, glucomannan, or sugar alcohols in moderation
2. Crank Up the Good Fats
- No: Margarine, shortening, corn oil, cottonseed oil, vegetable oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, and other hydrogenated oils.
- Eat: Organic butter, olive oil, coconut oil, etc (unsaturated fats to boost high-density lipoprotein, i.e. HDL, i.e. good cholesterol, and lower LDL cholesterol levels!)
- No: Oil Roasted or sugar coated nuts, seeds, butters
- Eat: Raw or dry roasted nuts and seeds
- No: Traditional milk-based products
- Eat: For milk choose coconut, almond, or cashew
- Eat: Healthy fats through olives, avocados, nuts, seeds, nut milks, nut butters, clean oils, clean organic/raw dairy in moderation, and organic meats and eggs
3. Clean Up the Protein
- No: Pork, shellfish, soy products (#1 GMO food), or corn (#2 GMO food)
- Eat: Organic or grass-fed and free-range animal protein
- Eat: Wild-caught fish (think mackerel, salmon, tuna)
- Eat: Clean organic, cage-free, eggs
- Eat: Raw nuts and seeds and their butters
- Eat: Clean dairy (kefir, full-fat plain yogurt in moderation, grass-fed whey protein, bone broth, and/or collagen protein)
Grab my book for an easy to use, cholesterol-lowering meal plan, and recipes.
6. 10 Minute Workouts
You must fit in aerobic fitness in order to have your risk factors for blood pressure, cholesterol, the risk of stroke, and the risk of heart attacks, go down. Getting oxygen into your body is critical. The proper exercise can accomplish this in a matter of minutes.
It doesn’t take long, you don’t need a gym, you don’t need to be insane, you don’t need 90 minutes, you don’t need equipment, and you do not need a lot of money. You just need to be consistent. You can get in the shape of your life and fit in fitness in an hour of physical activity per week!
- Significantly improves your insulin sensitivity, especially if you’re on a low-processed food, low-sugar, low-grain diet 14
- Optimizes your cholesterol ratios when combined with proper diet 15
- Boosts fat metabolism and optimizes your body fat percentages while supporting healthy weight loss (as a result of improved conservation of sugar and glycogen in your muscles)
- Helps eliminate type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure 14
- Naturally boosts your levels of human growth hormone (HGH) which helps boost muscle and burn fat
The concept is you’re going very hard for a short amount of time breathing very heavilyheavy, resting, and doing it again. You’ll repeat that cycle for an entire 10 minutes and you’ll be done for the day. You just have to breathe hard to burn fat. Intensity is king.
Treat sickness and disease and you get sickness and disease. Build health and you get health.
Cholesterol problems should be overseen by your physician for guided medical advice. but much can be done to build health to help you experience a real healthy lifestyle.