Today’s topic is how to lower cholesterol without medication.
The number one killer in most Western countries is cardiovascular disease and its right helping hand high cholesterol.
Today, we’ll talk about:
- what we can do to lower cholesterol without taking medication, naturally through changes in diet,
- we’ll also talk what coronary artery disease is, how it develops and at what age it starts,
- what foods we should eat more of and foods to eat less of to lower cholesterol levels,
- how cholesterol medication works compared to diet changes and
- plenty of useful information to take home with and think about.
I came in contact with health problems connected to high cholesterol recently, when my grandmother lost her leg because of artery plaque in her right leg. We knew she had high cholesterol but she was on medications and you know..what else can you do.
There’s so much you can do for lowering your cholesterol without drugs and hopefully avoid what my grandmother had to go through.
I want to have my gran gran around for as long as possible, so I started to dig in into how I can help her take care of healing and preventing another event.
I came across an amazing interview with Dr Michael Greger, who is widely recognized as one of the top Lifestyle Medicine Doctors in the world. He fully understands the role of nutrition in preventing and reversing many of our leading chronic diseases, including lowering cholesterol without prescription medication, which is the topic of this post.
Why cholesterol is not a bad word
Number one killer in the USA and most Western countries is cardiovascular disease.
The sad fact is, hundreds of thousands of people, men and women die each year because of it. The second sad fact is that the disease is preventable, stoppable and reversible. You as an individual can treat yourself against its major contributor – high LDL cholesterol.
A vast majority of high LDL cholesterol related diseases is preventable with one diet.
Cholesterol is a vital component of our cells and so cholesterol its not a bad guy. Our body makes cholesterol so our brain and body can function and we have an enzyme that is in charge of making cholesterol. We need cholesterol.
The problem starts when we introduce more and more cholesterol in our body and we end up with high cholesterol levels because our body cannot cope with the amounts of it.
What level is considered a high cholesterol level? What is happening in our body on a physiological state when we have high cholesterol? And why is it cutting life short?
Although there’re 3 types of cholesterol – total, LDL and HDL. I feel these terms only cause confusion around it.
What we need to know is any cholesterol we eat, called good or bad, is bad for us because we don’t need it. Our body makes it on its own as much as needed.
If you go to any medical, pharmaceutical site the number you see is somewhere around 200 mg/dL of total cholesterol as a desired and 240 mg/dL as a high total cholesterol.
For LDL the numbers are below 100 mg/dL as desired and 160 mg/dL as high LDL cholesterol level.
On the other side, if you go to a biochemistry, nutrition, and biology website, the number you well see there is up to 140 mg/dL for total and to take things further – there’re tonnes of research showing that negative effects of cholesterol starts at levels >150mg/dL. While LDL levels should be between 50 – 70 mg/dL.
Which one to believe?
Believe the lower value, 150 mg/dL. This is the value found in primates, vegans and our ancestors that don’t or didn’t have high cholesterol health problems. If our body makes the cholesterol it needs, lower value is always a safer value – which brings us to what’s happening in our body when we have high levels of cholesterol.
According to Dr Michael Greger: “The wall of the artery, right under the inner lining, starts to harden because of build up of cholesterol. Also, known as the process of arteriosclerosis – hardening of arteries.”
A cholesterol laden crappy food that we eat creates a build up, like a pimple inside of our arteries inner walls. It inflammation of arteries. And when the pimple gets big enough, inflamed enough, it pops and busts inside our blood and this burst causes blood to clog. We have stuff flowing in our bloodstream that should not be there and so eventually it will clog. Just like to clog a kitchen sink.
This clog can cut off blood supply to arteries, inside our organs. If it happens in the brain it cuts of a part of our brain and causes a stroke. If it happens in coronary arteries, the arteries that crown the heart and feed it, it can cause a heart attack. It can also happen in limps, and you lose an arm or a leg, like my grandmother.
Dr Michael Greger says: “It’s not surprising that the one, same diet prevents all these problems. How does it make sense that one diet can cure it all? It’s because our entire body needs a blood supply. And that the same plant based, wholefoods diet prevent these scenarios.”
What specific part of our diet causes these cholesterol pimples? Is it animal fats? Genetics? What is the contributing factor to the narrowing of arteries in the first place?
The primary cause and risk factor is LDL cholesterol, a bad cholesterol circulating in your blood supply. That’s what gets lodged inside your artery walls and cause inflammation.
If you can get LDL cholesterol low enough you are pretty much heart attack proof because there’s not enough material to build a cholesterol pimple, a plaque inside of our arteries to kill us.
OK. So what raises LDL cholesterol to dangerously high levels?
- Trans fats found in processed, vegetable oils and junk food. They’re very potent cholesterol raising agent.
- Saturated fat in meat and dairy,
- Dietary cholesterol, for example cholesterol in eggs. Dietary cholesterol does raise your cholesterol level but not as much as saturated fat or trans fat does.
So by cutting these three things out off your diet, your LDL cholesterol level should fall down to where a cholesterol related disease isn’t of concern anymore. That’s at around 70 mg/dL. Wholefoods plant based diet eliminates all three categories above and you won’t need to worry about getting a heart disease later on in life.
When does a heart disease start? What’s the typical development and progression of heart disease?
By the age of 10 most children raised on a standard American diet already have fatty streaks built up in their arteries. These streaks are the first stage of the disease.
It then progresses to formation of artherosporatic plaques, the pimples that will eventually burst and cause a stroke, heart attack, etc. (Source: NutritionFacts.org)
So by age 10 we’re already affected by unhealthy diet and high cholesterol.
There’re also studies that shows the connection between the diet of a mother and fetus she carries, her baby to be. If a mother eats high cholesterol diet, it affects the baby in her belly. They share the same blood and if mother’s blood is cholesterol laden so is baby’s that’s not even born yet.
Say you were diagnosed with a high cholesterol or are already on medication for high cholesterol. How does prescribed medication play roles in prevention or treatment of lowering cholesterol compared to diet changes?
Curing lifestyle is very profitable. If you don’t change your lifestyle, you have to take certain prescribed drugs for the rest of your life. So it doesn’t make much sense from pharmaceutical point of view to come up with a short term medication, like antibiotic. You take it for 10 days and off you go.
On the other hand, what if you end up taking medications every single day for the rest of your life. Blood pressure medication, cholesterol medication. That’s very profitable.
In fact, the best sold drug of all times is Lipitor, with $13 billion in sales. People take it forever because they’re not changing their diets. It’s easier to take a pill that change yourself.
Basically what these drugs do is interfere with the enzyme that creates cholesterol for your body. Even if you give your body more cholesterol though the diet, your body isn’t able to produce more of its own cholesterol because of this interference and your cholesterol levels drop.
So really, you’re stopping the body from doing its work but keep feeding it with the cholesterol from the food that is the primary problem. It’s smoking mirrors.
With high risk patients, that already had a heart attack and are trying to fend away the second one – people that should benefit the most by taking the medication – after couple of years of taking this medication, the risk reduction is only 3 – 4%.
So the vast majority won’t benefit from it at all.
Luckily, there’s a better solution. Eat better. It’s safer, cheaper and more effective because you’re treating the actual cause of the disease and not just tricking your body. In fact, by changing your diet, you’re cutting out the major problem maker.
What are the plant based foods you should be including in your diet from cholesterol lowering point of view?
Cholesterol is present in all tissues in humans and other animals. It is thus present in all foods from animal sources. It’s not present in any plants. Despite its importance to life, cholesterol isn’t an essential nutrient, you don’t have to consume any to stay healthy. (Source: Health Communities.com)
- Stay away from foods that raise your cholesterol. That’s animal products: meat, eggs and dairy.
- Reduced junk food as much as possible because of trans fats, saturated fats intake.
- Reduce dietary cholesterol food intake.
For most people, that’s enough.
Most people eating vegan diet have low LDL cholesterol levels. But, we’re all different and some people are more susceptible to it than others.
If you find yourself still, with higher levels of cholesterol that you’d like, you can then include plant foods that are known for pulling out cholesterol from your body:
- Foods with lots of soluble fiber,
- slimy foods like oatmeal,
- flax seeds,
- soy foods,
- nuts, etc.
There’s a list with these foods that are particularly helpful with reducing cholesterol. You can find it here.
What about oils? How do we cook food in order to lower cholesterol? With or without oils?
Oils and fats, they’re not bad. They’re an essential macro nutrient. Which means, we need fat for energy and other body functions.
But if you want to lower your cholesterol level, you should avoid using oils and get you fat intake from wholefoods.
Instead of using walnut oil, eat walnuts. Eat nuts and seeds and get your healthy fats from them.
Nuts, seeds and avocado.
How do I stop food sticking to my pan? Any liquid will do that. Use water or soy sauce. Use wine or vegetable broth.
Google “oil free cooking” and there’ll be million recipes you can use as an inspiration. Or any other recipe and substitute oil with above mentioned alternatives.
How long does it take to reverse the damage?
Our body is amazing system that is made to heal itself when given the right nutrients. Once you stop bombarding your body with cholesterol laden foods and switch to plant based diet, the reversal starts happening instantly.
Your body always tries to heal. If you cut yourself with knife. When do you start to heal? Immediately.
Your body wants to heal, always, but if you’re damaging it constantly, three times a day, the body always starts anew, after every meal. Over and over again.
"So as much as we can re injure our arteries with every bite, we can also heal them with every bite." - Dr Michael Greger
If we have all this information about what food is good for our heart and lower cholesterol through diet and save lives, why isn’t this the default diet?
According to many Lifestyle doctors, like Dr Ornish, Dr Greger, etc. there’re many reasons for this. Many doctors don’t know about nutrition because its not part of medical training. Why isn’t it taught is schools? Because its not profitable talk to the patient about apples and oatmeal. You don’t get paid as a doctor to talk to patient. You need to write prescriptions and book procedures. And so there’s no economic incentive to push people towards plant based diet.
There are two options: you can take drugs or can change your diet. The predictable consequences to your actions are known and its up to you to decide which way you’ll go. One has a 4% success rate. The other one 10 times that. Source: (Ornish.com )
Switching to a wholefood plant based diet is cheaper, safer and more effective for lowering cholesterol lever than taking medications.
Start with having oatmeal for breakfast. Google plant based recipes and see the options.
Watch Netflix documentary: Forks Over Knives, or The Game Changers.
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Till next time,