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  • Writer's pictureWesley Prent

Understanding Cholesterol: Why It's Important to Keep It Low and How to Manage It Naturally

Updated: May 28

Cholesterol often gets a bad rap but it plays a crucial role in our body. However, maintaining balanced cholesterol levels is key to good health. Your body gets cholesterol from two sources: your liver, which produces all the cholesterol you need, and the foods you eat, particularly animal products like meat, dairy, and eggs.

This post will explore what cholesterol is, its functions in the body, why it's important to keep it low, and practical ways to manage cholesterol levels naturally, including dietary tips.

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in every cell of the body. It is essential for several bodily functions, including:

  • Cell Membrane Structure: Cholesterol helps maintain the fluidity and integrity of cell membranes.

  • Hormone Production: It's a precursor for the synthesis of hormones such as estrogen, testosterone, and cortisol.

  • Vitamin D Synthesis: Cholesterol is involved in the production of Vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight.

  • Bile Production: It aids in the formation of bile acids, which are crucial for digesting fats.

The Role of Cholesterol in the Body

Cholesterol travels through your bloodstream in small packages called lipoproteins, which are made of fat (lipid) on the inside and proteins on the outside. Two main types of lipoproteins carry cholesterol throughout the body:

  1. Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL): Often referred to as "bad" cholesterol, LDL carries cholesterol to your arteries. If there is too much LDL cholesterol in your blood, it can build up in the walls of your arteries, forming plaque and leading to atherosclerosis—a condition characterized by the narrowing and hardening of the arteries.

  2. High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL): Known as "good" cholesterol, HDL helps return LDL cholesterol to the liver, where it can be broken down and removed from the body. High levels of HDL cholesterol can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Why Keeping Cholesterol Low is Important

Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels is crucial for preventing cardiovascular diseases. High levels of LDL cholesterol and low levels of HDL cholesterol are major risk factors for:

  • Heart Disease: Excess cholesterol can lead to the formation of plaques in the arteries, reducing blood flow and increasing the risk of heart attacks.

  • Stroke: Reduced blood flow due to narrowed arteries can also lead to strokes.

  • Peripheral Arterial Disease: Cholesterol buildup can affect blood flow to the limbs, leading to pain and mobility issues.

How to Monitor Your Cholesterol

Regular monitoring of your cholesterol levels is important, especially as you age or if you have risk factors like a family history of heart disease, obesity, smoking, or a sedentary lifestyle. A lipid panel blood test can measure your total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides.

Healthy Cholesterol Levels

  • Total Cholesterol: Less than 200 mg/dL

  • LDL Cholesterol: Less than 100 mg/dL

  • HDL Cholesterol: 60 mg/dL or higher

  • Triglycerides: Less than 150 mg/dL

Natural Ways to Keep Cholesterol in Check

While medications can help manage cholesterol levels, many lifestyle changes can significantly impact your cholesterol and overall heart health.


  • Increase Soluble Fiber: Foods high in soluble fiber, such as oats, beans, lentils, fruits, and vegetables, can help reduce LDL cholesterol.

  • Choose Healthy Fats: Replace saturated and trans fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in olive oil, avocados, nuts, and fatty fish like salmon.

  • Eat More Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These healthy fats, found in fish like mackerel, salmon, and flaxseeds, can help lower triglycerides and improve heart health.

  • Limit Cholesterol-Rich Foods: Reduce intake of high-cholesterol foods such as red meat, full-fat dairy products, and processed foods.


Regular physical activity can help raise HDL cholesterol and lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week, along with muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days per week.

Weight Management

Maintaining a healthy weight can help manage cholesterol levels. Losing even a small percentage of body weight can improve cholesterol levels and overall cardiovascular health.

Avoid Smoking and Limit Alcohol

  • Quit Smoking: Smoking lowers HDL cholesterol and increases the risk of heart disease. Quitting smoking can improve your HDL cholesterol levels and overall heart health.

  • Limit Alcohol: Excessive alcohol intake can lead to high cholesterol and triglyceride levels. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation—up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.

Stress Management

Chronic stress can negatively impact cholesterol levels and heart health. Incorporate stress-reducing practices such as mindfulness, yoga, deep breathing exercises, or engaging in hobbies you enjoy.


Cholesterol is essential for your body's functions, but maintaining balanced levels is crucial for heart health. Regular monitoring and adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle can help keep your cholesterol in check and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. By making informed dietary choices, exercising regularly, managing your weight, avoiding smoking, limiting alcohol intake, and managing stress, you can take control of your cholesterol levels naturally and enjoy a healthier life.

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