I have high cholesterol but I do not want to take any medication

I have high cholesterol but I do not want to take any medication

Do you have high cholesterol levels? Did you have any vascular disease and lowering cholesterol has been recommended? Have you suffered any side effect with cholesterol treatment? Perhaps you are afraid of side effects of medication... Let's see our options.

Maybe the first thing we need to know is: what does to have high cholesterol mean exactly? Actually, when doctors say to patients that they should check their cholesterol or that they have high levels of cholesterol, we often refer only to LDL cholesterol (aka “bad cholesterol”). Initials LDL mean exactly Low Density Lipoprotein. We are actually measuring cholesterol transporter proteins (cholesterol is a fat, therefore it cannot be dissolved in blood serum and a transporter becomes necessary). Human beings produce different cholesterol transporters and LDL proteins are the most likely to clog our artery walls. It is very important to know this since the decision of having more or less LDL is in our genes. Having high cholesterol is due mainly to a genetic predisposition. If our father, mother or brother have high cholesterol we are very likely to have it, as well as our children are. That is the reason why non obese people with good dietary habits may have high cholesterol levels and vice versa.

Thus, you should know that in spite of following a balanced diet and of doing physical activity, around 80% of your cholesterol is produced by your organism and the only way to lower very high levels is taking suitable medication. Nevertheless, dietary measures and support of nutritional supplements have been able to delay, and even interrupt, the drug treatment. Let's see some of these measures.

First, don't give up! If you are on a diet to lower your cholesterol levels and have not reached the target recommended by your doctor, do not stop it. We have already explained the reasons why it has not been effective enough. It is not your fault. A diet free of saturated fats (< 200 mg cholesterol/day) and rich in vegetables, dried nuts and legumes (rich in fibre) will contribute to prevent an increase of your cholesterol and triglycerides levels. It will also help to reduce body weight, the risk of hypertension and, attention!... the risk of having cancer. There is no doubt about following a healthy diet. Here, you will find some recommendations that can be useful for you.

Second, some dietary supplements can help to lower moderately your cholesterol levels. We are talking about plant sterols and stanols, which “compete” with cholesterol when they are absorbed by the bowel decreasing this way the absorption of the cholesterol coming from food. Another example is omega-3 fatty acids, coming from fats of animal origin, in particular fish. They prevent LDL production, thus, cholesterol has to be transported in other lipoproteins with less risk for health. You can also reduce cholesterol values by 15% if you substitute milk fat (butter) for polyunsaturated fatty acids such as the ones present in extra-virgin olive oil. Another natural products which has shown a modest but beneficial anti-cholesterolemic effect are red rice yeast, berberine or policosanols.

Finally, remember that aerobic exercise has shown its capability of reducing body weight, plasma glucose levels and blood pressure values as well as helping to control LDL cholesterol and to increase the so-called “good cholesterol” (HDL).

Do not forget what is has been said previously. If despite of adopting all these measures, your cholesterol levels are still very high, the only way to reduce them will be a suitable medication. Treatment must always be individualised, that is, adjusted to your particular case. Therefore, we recommend medical supervision before any change in your treatment.