How to lower cholesterol and LDL And the Ways to Reduce ThemJan 02, 2024
If you think cholesterol is your body's enemy, your doctor and Internet did a horrible job. We often hear about cholesterol as something to fight against, to lower at all costs. But what if I told you cholesterol is not just a number to stress about on your medical reports?
Let’s talk about this in-depth. This isn't a dry, scientific lecture – I promise to keep it light and easy to grasp. Imagine cholesterol as that silent, hardworking character in a movie, doing all the important stuff behind the scenes. Without it, the show can’t go on. But, sometimes it makes mistakes, or being influenced by bad actors or horrible boss.
Cholesterol is essential to our bodies and playing multiple critical roles:
1. It's a building block for hormones like testosterone and estrogen (notice the 'ster' in there? That's because they are derived from choleSTERol).
2. It forms our cell membranes – the very fabric of every cell in our body.
3. Without this molecule you would not have muscles.
4. Lack of it prevents you from generating or healing tissue.
5. It helps make vitamin D – yes, vitamin (no D, no bones and many other things).
6. It acts as a delivery service for fats in our blood. Fats can't travel solo in our bloodstream; they need a buddy, and that's LDL.
7. It's vital for creating bile, which breaks down fats in our meals.
So, before we jump on the 'lower at all costs' bandwagon, let’s pause and appreciate what it really does for us. From hormones to healing wounds, from generating vitamin D in the sun to enjoying a fatty meal, cholesterol is there, making it all happen.
Ready to change how you view lipid markers? Let's go!
Unpacking Cholesterol: Separating Facts from Fiction
In the world of health and wellness, there’s many myths around cholesterol, leading to confusion and often bad and useless actions. I am going to debunk some of these common cholesterol myths for you.
Myth 1: Exercise Lowers Cholesterol
Many believe that more exercise equals lower cholesterol. Someone, who exercises 5 times a week, recently told me that their doctor told them to train more to lower their high cholesterol. While exercise has endless health benefits and you can’t ever be healthy if you don’t train, it does not directly lower cholesterol levels. Surprisingly, people who exercise intensively can sometimes exhibit higher cholesterol levels, although this is not an indication that exercise increases cholesterol. Exercise will lower blood pressure, but not cholesterol.
Myth 2: Medication is the Only Solution for High Cholesterol
Another widespread belief is that high cholesterol can only be treated with medications like statins or PCSK9 inhibitors. This isn't always true. Cholesterol management is complex and depends on individual circumstances. Lifestyle changes and understanding the specific causes of high cholesterol play a significant role.
Myth 3: Low Carb Diets Make High Cholesterol Okay
Popular in the ketogenic and low-carb communities, there's a notion that if you don't consume sugar or carbs, high cholesterol isn’t a problem and even a benefit. Some people, including major influencers parade and show off their high cholesterol numbers. However, irrespective of diet, harmful types of cholesterol (like ApoB) will still damage your arteries. The key is the type and the amounts of cholesterol, not the diet. Cholesterol doesn’t care about your diet.
Myth 4: Avoid Cholesterol-Rich Foods Like Eggs and Meat Due to High Cholesterol Content
There's a long-standing advice to avoid foods high in cholesterol to prevent increasing blood cholesterol levels. This is misleading. Dietary cholesterol has minimal impact on blood cholesterol levels. It's the saturated fat and sugar content in foods that are influential.
Myth 5: Stopping Sugar Intake Will Lower Cholesterol
The belief that cutting out sugar will automatically lower cholesterol is another oversimplification. In fact, people who eliminate sugar but increase fat intake may see their cholesterol levels rise significantly due to increased fat in the diet and the need for it to be transported by cholesterol.
Myth 6: High Cholesterol Can Suddenly Appear
Finally, the idea that high cholesterol can suddenly manifest is incorrect. Like most health markers, cholesterol levels change gradually. Over years (unless you changed your diet sharply). Regular monitoring is essential to detect any slow, steady changes, allowing for timely interventions before levels become problematic. I wish doctors would do that. They almost never do.
By understanding these myths and the realities behind them, we can approach cholesterol management more effectively and make informed decisions about our health.
Decoding the Root Causes of High Cholesterol
Understanding why cholesterol levels go up is crucial for effective management. Otherwise you might be doing something completely useless or even harming yourself (for example classic ketogenic diet) or taking a medicine which is definitely not needed in your case while causing some potential damage. Here's a deeper look into the various reasons behind high cholesterol levels:
1. Excess Carbohydrate Intake (most common and usually also masking other reasons): Too many carbs inevitably lead to excess fat storage, which necessitates more cholesterol for fat transportation. Keeping carb intake in check is essential to manage cholesterol levels effectively.
2. High Dietary Fat (not as common as you might think, unless you’re on the diet described in the next bullet): Consuming excessive fat increases the need for cholesterol as a transport mechanism in the bloodstream. This is particularly noticeable during weight loss when burning off stored fat temporarily raises cholesterol levels. Fat types to blame - trans fats, saturated fat fatty acids, rancid vegetable oils.
3. Ketogenic Diet Misconceptions: A high-fat, low-carb diet results in elevated cholesterol most of the time, especially when it's low in fiber. Fiber helps remove cholesterol from the body, so its absence leads lead to higher cholesterol levels with over-producing fat in the background, which needs more and more cholesterol. It is not uncommon for us to see clients on keto who walk in with cholesterol of crazy 400+.
4. Thyroid Function: The thyroid regulates metabolism and with it - cholesterol processing. Hypothyroidism or suboptimal thyroid function can slow down these processes, resulting in increased cholesterol levels. And no, you don’t need to be clinically hypo-thyroid for this. And no, your doctor won’t notice any issue 90% of the time.
5. Testosterone Levels: Both men and women need healthy testosterone levels for cholesterol management. Low testosterone can lead to an increase in LDL cholesterol. The relationship between thyroid function and testosterone also plays a role, as a deficiency in one can affect the other, impacting cholesterol levels among other very important things.
6. Genetic Factors: While genetics can influence cholesterol, it's not a definitive factor. High cholesterol can often be managed with lifestyle and dietary changes, even if it's hereditary. So “genetics” is not a sentence. I had VERY high cholesterol and both of my parents did, and yet, it is extremely low now, despite genetics.
Each of these elements contributes to cholesterol levels in its own way. Understanding them helps in creating a tailored approach to cholesterol management, focusing on more than just dietary restrictions.
Practical Steps to Take Control of Your Cholesterol And How to Lower Cholesterol Naturally
Navigating through the maze of cholesterol management is tough and to an untrained individual is completely pointless by themselves, because most doctors can't get past "bad cholesterol / good cholesterol/ total cholesterol" paradigm. but with the right approach, guidance and support, it's entirely possible to keep things in check. We see clients getting excellent results year after year. Here's a high level (but comprehensive) guide to managing your cholesterol effectively:
1. Know Your Cholesterol Levels: Don't just rely on basic LDL, HDL cholesterol, and triglyceride tests. Many times they will not tell the half of the story and don't really tell whether you have a risk of heart disease. You must know your Lp(a), ApoB, and in addition, LDL particle size tests can be very useful to truly have full information about your cholesterol profile. Yes, I get it, you cannot read that information yourself, but then it applies to everything about your bloodwork.
2. Moderate Your Carbohydrate Intake and Alcohol Consumption: Excessive carbs (including whole grains) and alcohol (which is ALWAYS excessive) turn into fat, leading to increased cholesterol for transportation of that fat. Balancing your carb intake is key. And just so you know, what we culturally call “low carb diet” is actually not low carb. It is natural human diet. We are not designed to consume sugar in amounts that above what fruits have. Yes. We are not.
3. Increase Soluble Fiber Intake: Whether it's through diet or supplements, aim for at least 20-25 grams of fiber daily. This helps bind cholesterol and aids in its removal.
4. Monitor Thyroid Function: Keep an eye on your TSH levels. A TSH above 1.5 could indicate a thyroid function issue affecting cholesterol. But if it is below, it does not mean there’s no issue, and therefore, ensure your T3 and T4 hormones are also within optimal ranges (and when I say optimal it is above the middle of the range).
5. Check Testosterone Levels: Both men and women should monitor their testosterone levels. Low testosterone can contribute to higher LDL cholesterol. And if your doctor says “You’re in range, so you’re good” that is incorrect. Being in range is not enough. My cholesterol didn’t drop until my testosterone was a the top of the range.
6. Don't Focus on Genetics, just remember it plays a factor and will make you work slightly more: While family history is a factor, it's not definitive. Focus on actionable steps you can take to manage your cholesterol.
7. Consider Supplements: Ensure adequate vitamin D and omega-3 intake. Phytosterol (plant sterols) supplements and others like red yeast rice might be beneficial, but consult a health coach, a functional doctor or a specialist healthcare professional first.
8. Reduce Saturated Fat, Increase Unsaturated Fats, Polyunsaturated Fats and Monounsaturated Fats: The type of fat we consume matters a lot, limit saturated fats, dairy products, consume them in small amounts only, and include healthier fats like those in avocados, olive oil and of course olives. Fatty meat, coconut oil (unless it is for skin) and butter are never your friends. Ever.
9. Seek Professional Help: If lifestyle changes aren't working, always consult with professionals. For that purpose, your family doctor is the wrong professional to ask. Get multiple opinions to form the best strategy for you.
10. Resorting to Medication: If all else fails and professional advice points in this direction, consider statins. However, be aware of their side effects and use them as a last resort. There are also different types of statins and more advanced medications, such as PCSK9 inhibitors.
How much exercise do I need in order to lower my cholesterol and LDL levels?
To lower cholesterol and LDL levels, it is often recommended to engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week. Unfortunately this advice is very misleading and it is important to understand that in most cases exercise will not help.
Take Action: Share, Seek Help, and Manage Your Cholesterol, That is THE Best Way
If you've found value in this article and believe it could help others, please don't hesitate to share it. This isn't just potentially life-saving information—it is life-saving. I've seen firsthand how knowledge and action can keep people out of surgeries and prevent heart attacks.
If You Have Concerns, Reach Out: Cholesterol-related issues leading to heart attacks are largely manageable, making them one of the easiest health crises to prevent. Unlike more unpredictable diseases like cancer, addressing cholesterol and heart health is within your control, if you choose to take control.
If you're uncertain about your health status, have questions, or think you might have a problem, it's crucial to seek professional help. And while your regular medical provider or family doctor is a starting point, consider looking beyond.
Why Specialist Help Matters?: Many doctors, including some of my own clients, may not have the specialized knowledge needed for comprehensive cholesterol management. A good lipidologist, a skilled functional medicine doctor, or a functional nutritionist like myself can offer more targeted and effective assistance.
My Approach to How to Lower Cholesterol Naturally: When I work with clients, it's an in-depth process. We analyze everything—nutrition, blood work, lifestyle, hormones—to develop a customized plan. This detailed approach is why I spend at least an hour and a half in each session and why my success rate is so high. If needed, I collaborate with medical doctors to ensure all aspects of your health are addressed.
Seek Real Help, Not Just Online Advice: While online resources can be informative, they're no substitute for professional guidance and most of the time misguiding (and definitely don’t go to TikTok or WebMD advice). If you think you need help, or even if you're just unsure, reach out. Avoid relying solely on 'Doctor Google'—real, personalized support is key.
Interested in Working Together?: If you're interested in one-on-one or group work, or if you have any questions, feel free to send me a message or reply to this post. I'm always looking to help people who really want to improve and are ready to work on improving their life, and provide the support you need for your cholesterol and overall health journey.
Reach out to me at https://www.bioprimewellness.com/contact
Thank you for taking the time to read and share this article. Together, we can make a significant difference in managing cholesterol and preventing heart-related issues.
Julian Ribinik, CSNS - www.bioprimewellness.com
Resources and explanations on lipids, theory, chemistry and more science:
Peter Attia on Lipids: