Total cholesterol is a combined reading of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and a portion of triglycerides.  Ideally, your overall number should be 200 or less.

If you let elevated cholesterol linger for too long, a waxy substance called plaque can build up in your arteries and put you at risk for a heart attack or stroke. To avoid any possible catastrophes, your goal is to get your HDL as high as possible while lowering your LDL and triglycerides.

According to the Mayo Clinic, HDL should be 60 mg/dL or higher, LDL should be below 130 mg/dL and triglycerides should be 150 mg/dL or lower. Although there is always a pharmaceutical approach to treat symptoms of any condition, you put yourself at risk for unwanted side effects when you go down that avenue.  On the contrary, you have an abundance of simple, natural ways to bring your numbers into balance and I’m going to share them with you right now.

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1. Cut your calories

Being overweight or obese is bad news on many levels.  When it comes to your cholesterol, it lowers HDL and elevates LDL and triglycerides.  By simply making a daily restriction of 250 calories, you can promote a half a pound of weight loss per week.  Although it’s slow and gradual, it’s still effective and relatively easy to do.

2. Move your body

It stands to reason that the more active you are, the more weight you can lose.  But there’s another side to this story.  Physical activity has been proven to boost HDL levels.  If you have some pounds to give up, you win two ways! You don’t need to make this complicated either.

All you need to do is aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise a day.  This could be swimming, riding a bike, hiking, walking up and down stairs at a stadium or power dancing in your living room to your favorite music.  If you don’t have 30 minutes to spare, split it up into smaller bouts and accumulate your time.  It’s just as effective and this might be easier for you to fit into your schedule.

3. Add more fiber to your diet 

Ugh, the dreaded “F” word.  If you haven’t heard by now, fiber is a non-digestible substance that helps fills you up and stabilizes blood sugar levels.  As an added bonus, it has also been known to reduce high cholesterol. Make sure to include plenty of whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables in your diet because these foods are all high in fiber.

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4. Increase your intake of omega-3 fats.

Not all fat is bad, which especially holds true with omega-3s.  These are known as unsaturated fats that can be found in cold-water fish like salmon, tuna, herring and mackerel.  Omega 3s have been known to lower cholesterol and improve heart health.  Try to include fish in your diet at least twice a week.  If you do not like to eat fish, look for a good quality fish oil supplement at your local health food store.

5. Stay away from cigarettes.

In the long list of negative effects caused by smoking, you can add high cholesterol to it.  Not only does it raise LDL but it also lowers HDL.  The bottom line here is, quit if you smoke, and if you don’t, avoid secondhand smoke at all costs. Last but not least, stay positive.  Having high cholesterol is not the end of the world if you become proactive and have good discipline.  Take it one day at a time and within a few short months you will be able to recognize a difference.

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