When you see your doctor for a routine checkup, do you have blood drawn? Lab tests often include measurements of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol (LDL-C) and HDL cholesterol (HDL-C). These blood lipids, in conjunction with other risk factors, are used to determine how vulnerable you may be to heart disease.
Faced with high cholesterol, many people want to know how to lower it naturally. The health care provider may advise following a diet low in saturated fat, limiting red meat and full-fat dairy products, based on recommendations from the American Heart Association.
Some other dietary changes can also help lower cholesterol. We heard from one reader who had unexpected success:
“For the past three years, my labwork revealed increasing cholesterol values. This culminated in a value of 217 in 2019. That’s not alarmingly high, but it was puzzling considering I’ve had a lifetime of trying to eat well.
“I decided to make a change in my diet, starting with the first meal of the day. Back in April, I changed my breakfast choices. Ten months ago, I began each day with a quarter cup of coarsely broken English walnuts, 1 cup of frozen blueberries, 1 1/4 cups of plain Cheerios, 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon with 8 to 9 ounces of 2 percent organic milk. All layered in a cereal bowl in that order.
“After nine months of enjoying this delicious and filling breakfast, I found myself in my doctor’s office for my annual physical, which included a complete blood count and comprehensive metabolic panel. The doctor himself called me to share the results of the lab report. Much to his delight and mine, he said, ‘Your cholesterol is 170, down from the previous year’s 217. A whopping 47 points. What have you been doing?’
“I told him of my experience to get my cholesterol under control. I share this to help any reader who may be struggling with his/her cholesterol. I know that diet choices for the remainder of the day weigh into this equation, but since it was such a game changer for me, it just might be helpful to others who are committed to making a positive change in their lab results. In addition to the drop in total cholesterol, my HDL-C was up and the LDL-C was lower.”
The choices this reader made have been shown to benefit blood lipid levels. For example, consuming walnuts in place of saturated fats lowers total cholesterol and LDL-C (Journal of Nutrition, Apr. 1, 2020). So does including whole-grain oats in the diet (Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, November 2020). Flaxseed has a similar effect, primarily in people whose blood lipids are high to begin with (International Journal of Angiology, December 2020). A meta-analysis of 16 studies confirmed that cinnamon also lowers total and LDL cholesterol (Complementary Therapies in Medicine, December 2020).
You will find other suggestions for dietary measures that can help lower blood lipids in our eGuide to Cholesterol Control and Heart Health. It contains, among other information, Laura Effel’s strategy on how she lowered her LDL cholesterol 44 points in five weeks without medications. This online resource is in the Health eGuides section of our website, www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.
Questions for Joe and Teresa Graedon can be emailed via their website: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.