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Cardiovascular disease is thought to be our number one killer, as just less than one million Americans die from heart disease each year.
Reducing cholesterol, specifically LDL (the "bad cholesterol" which forms plaque in our arteries that can then block blood flow to the brain & heart) can greatly aid one's overall cardiovascular health.
High levels of cholesterol are the result of either overproduction of cholesterol by the liver, or more commonly a diet that includes too many animal products (both dairy and red meat).
So how can one go about lowering cholesterol levels safely?
Let's first deal very briefly with non-dietary factors. These include getting some natural sunshine daily and maintaining a regular schedule of exercise of at least one half hour each day, doing activities such as walking, bike riding or swimming, to aid in strengthening your cardiovascular system. Also, if you are overweight or obese, you must lose those extra pounds. Even losing 10 pounds can result in a definite lowering of your cholesterol. As well, of course, smoking and alcohol consumption should be eliminated or at least minimized as much as possible. With regards to alcohol, men should restrict themselves to two drinks a day, and women just one.
More important varies is adjusting your diet. Make sure you drink a minimum of six glasses of water each day. Reduce the quantity of animal and dairy foods you eat on a regular basis to no more than 10% of your calorie intake. Try to eat lean cuts of meat and skim milk. Some types of fish, including tuna, halibut and cod, contain a lot less cholesterol than red meat. Other fish products including salmon and mackerel have high levels of beneficial acids that can aid your cardiovascular function. Try to eat more foods containing dietary fiber, as well as fruits and vegetables (fresh) and stay away from hydrogenated oils and fried foods.
Let's highlight some of the foods that may help alleviate high cholesterol levels. The fiber found in whole grains can aid in preventing the cholesterol in our foods from entering into our bloodstream. Select pastas and bread made from whole grains, and eat brown rather than white rice. Try to eat more soy, sprouts, seaweed and nuts too.
Vitamins B6, C and E have been cited as helpful. Some other natural supplements that can aid in reducing cholesterol levels include garlic (raw), chromium, grape seed extract, soy, carnitine and pantothine. Some of these actually increase the amount of HDL (good cholesterol), which has a positive effect. Both plant sterols and Omega-3 fatty acids are also contributors to the health of your heart. Blueberries, too, are very useful in decreasing cholesterol. You should also make it a habit to drink every morning a glass of your favorite fruit juice with spirulina and soy protein mixed in.
While following the above guidelines on a daily basis should assist most people to lower their cholesterol to normal levels, some people may still need either a medication or a natural supplement. You should meet with your medical advisor if your high cholesterol levels are not being helped by dietary means and daily exercise.