These Natural Remedies Work at Lowering Bad Cholesterol, Say Doctors
Simple diet and lifestyle tweaks that make a huge difference.
Statins are a commonly prescribed drug in the US, but a recent study in JAMA Internal Medicine reveals they’re less effective than once thought, cutting heart attack and stroke risk by less than one percent.
“A lot of doctors believe statins are the best way to lower cholesterol, but they’re overused,” says cardiologist Stephen Sinatra, MD, co-author of The Great Cholesterol Myth. “I saw so many women who begged to be taken off them because they experienced side effects like aches, GI problems and brain fog. Natural remedies, on the other hand, lower the inflammatory components that raise cholesterol, without side effects.”
Note: Statins can be helpful, especially for those with a history of angioplasty, so don’t stop taking them without your doctor’s okay, but do read on for natural ways to lower bad cholesterol safely.
Oatmeal with a twist is the best food.
Starting your day with the right breakfast can dramatically reduce LDL cholesterol. “Soluble fiber in oatmeal binds to bad cholesterol, eliminating it from the body,” explains cardiologist Leslie Cho, MD, director of the Cleveland Clinic’s Women’s Cardiovascular Center. The Clinic’s recommended dose: Just 1 1⁄2 cups of oatmeal daily. To make your breakfast summer-perfect, try overnight oats (which you can enjoy cold) and jazz it up with another fiber-rich powerhouse: apples. “Apples are rich in quercetin, an antioxidant that lowers inflammation and cholesterol,” explains Dr. Sinatra. Prefer a supplement? He suggests taking 500 mg. of quercetin a day.
A 30-minute stroll is the best activity.
Moderate exercise has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol by 15 percent and raise “good” HDL cholesterol by 20 percent. While any regular aerobic activity helps you reap the health benefits, walking is arguably the best cholesterol-slashing workout because it engages multiple muscle groups at the same time. “Walking 30 minutes a day is shown to increase the size of LDL particles so they become big and puffy,” says nutritionist Janet Brill, PhD, author of Cholesterol Down. And that’s a good thing:
“When LDL particles are large, they’re easier for the liver to ‘spit out’ and expel,” she explains. “Smaller particles are more dangerous because they enter the arterial wall more easily, creating ‘unstable’ plaque — most heart attacks are caused by this kind of plaque.”
Bergamot is the best supplement.
“This orange, native to Southern Italy, is full of bioflavonoids that reduce cholesterol in a similar way to statins — by alleviating inflammation — but without the side effects,” says Dr. Sinatra. In one study in the International Journal of Cardiology, people who took 1,000 mg. of bergamot extract daily for a month lowered LDL cholesterol by 36 percent and raised “good” HDL cholesterol by 40 percent. Bonus: Bergamot also lowers triglycerides, blood lipids that can block arteries to increase the risk of stroke and heart attack. Dr. Sinatra recommends taking 500 mg. to 1,000 mg. of bergamot extract daily. Our pick: NAOMI Citrus Bergamot, NaomiW.com.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.