Can Someone With Mildly Elevated LDL Cholesterol Use Diet to Avoid Statins?

25 answers | Last updated: Oct 29, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

Can someone who's been diagnosed with mildly elevated LDL cholesterol use dietary changes to avoid taking statins?


Expert Answers

Beth Reardon, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., is Caring.com senior food and nutrition editor and the director of integrative nutrition at Duke Integrative Medicine. As a practitioner of integrative nutrition, Reardon takes a holistic approach to wellness, recognizing that the foundation for optimal health and healing begins with a health-promoting diet. As a practitioner of integrative nutrition, Reardon takes a holistic approach to wellness, recognizing that the foundation for optimal health and healing begins with a health-promoting diet.

Yes, a change in diet can help reduce so-called "lower elevated" LDL cholesterol levels -- and can often make taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs unnecessary.

Keep in mind that our cholesterol level is just a number. What's really important in terms of cardiovascular disease is the oxidation of that cholesterol (the end result of cell damage caused by so-called free radicals) that goes on to cause unchecked inflammation (when the body's normal immune response goes into a kind of unhealthy overdrive), which is the ultimate cause of damage to the arterial lining, and of heart disease.

So it's important to think beyond the numbers and focus on decreasing oxidative stress and inflammation. How to do this?

Decrease animal proteins and add more soy protein. This has two benefits:

  • It replaces animal protein, which is higher in saturated fat (which causes the increase in human cholesterol production).

  • Isoflavones in soy have lipid-lowering effects. Ideally, to get the full benefit, aim to consume 25 grams of soy protein (about two or three servings of whole soy) a day. Good sources of soy include edamame (baby soy beans in the pod), roasted soy nuts, tempeh, and tofu. Animal protein should be lean.

Consume more soluble fiber. These are the sticky-gummy types of fiber found in oatmeal, oat bran, legumes, barley, peas, and citrus fruits. Soluble fibers lower lipids by binding with cholesterol in the digestive system to help eliminate it along with waste, and they help keep blood sugar in check. (Insoluble fibers include wheat, wheat bran, rye, and rice bran.)

Eat more mushrooms. They contain beta-glucans, which bind cholesterol in the gut to help eliminate it from the body. Good varieties to look for: enoki and maitake.

Add unsalted or lightly salted nuts to your diet. Almonds, walnuts, and pistachios in particular have lipid-lowering effects. Almonds are also a good source of soluble fiber, walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and all are good sources of monounsaturated fats. Nuts also contain plant sterols, which bind cholesterol in the gut to remove it from the body, rather than it being reabsorbed. The body then has to use its own cholesterol stores to manufacture hormones, cell membranes, and so on, effectively lowering the overall cholesterol in the body.

Aim for an ounce of nuts per day. This is equivalent to approximately a quarter cup of most nuts, or 20 to 23 almonds or 18 to 20 walnuts.

Drink pomegranate juice and green tea. Both contain antioxidants that have been shown to reduce inflammation. Pomegranate juice has also been shown to be effective in reducing the formation of plaque in artery linings. Amounts as small as 3 to 4 ounces of pomegranate juice per day (that's a small juice cup) have been shown to provide these benefits. Green tea can be brewed hot or consumed as iced tea. Look to drink 2 to 4 cups per day for maximum health benefits.

Try to raise the level of HDLs (the protective form of cholesterol). The best ways to do this are by getting aerobic exercise and consuming omega-3 fats, found in foods such as cold-water fish (wild salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel), flaxseed, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds.


Community Answers

Mia answered...

Helpful


Savedbygrace answered...

Very Help. this is the kind of information folks need to make better , more infomred choices for their nutrition. I do however , have a concern about the use of Soy to such an extent. We are inundated with too many things that are too close to soy as it is.


Laboure answered...

I think you can eat right and lower cholesterol. I know lower cholesterol eating the right foods will help you keep the cholesterol down.I found this information to be very helpful. I will add this information to the rest of the information I have about cholesterol. Thank-You


Adjunct prof.rosellfernandez answered...

Here is the answer: eat oatmeal,no sugar please, not the prepackaged kind please, no maple strawberry etc please. 2 x's day for 6 months. Get back to me if you do it. Guaranteed. Buy steel cut oatmeal and prepare it, you can put a tiny bit of celtic salt,you can use soy milk. This does not mean you can now load up on trans fatty foods! sprinkle flax seed powder on it. make it palatable according to your likes. I am not interested in fancy medical jargon, though I certainly can apply it--please use common sense. Drink as much filtered water as you can tolerate. The bottom line is if you make your meals top heavy in fruits and vegetables you will also reduce cholesterol. I am also leery of acidity. High acidity=cancer. RA. High sugar? tumors love them,high cortisol? diabetes..all controllable with non FDA approved food. Stay away from the ridiculous pyramid diet. Because while it is appears correct the INGREDIENTS in today's foods are toxic. Eat organic. grow your food. use tumeric, ginger, cumin,garlic.

All of this?requires re-wiring your brain and refusing to buy into commercials, internet offers and advertising. Join a healthy eating group either on line or in person. By the way? the cardiologist I was being seen by? told me this was impossible ..yeah right Dr.Park. You were wrong. My numbers were 267-now 227 and sliding down..I refuse to take medication.


Zephyr answered...

I am a healthy 62+ yr. old woman, eat mostly raw, no red meats, absolutely no junk, no processed food, yet found out today that my LDL is 122. I have read what not to eat - and I don't eat any of that stuff! I don't smoke, do drink beer or wine infrequently, and thought I was keeping active enough, but all I can figure is that I am NOT getting enough exercise. My work keeps me sedentary and I try to make up for it with the garden and walking (up and down hills). I love oatmeal though, REAL OATS, and am happy to try that. I too have concerns about soy. If it is genetically modified and/or not organic I think there is considerable risk involved. I did eat a lot of soybeans, tofu and tempeh between 1976 and 2002; this may have helped me sail through menopause (that and lots of dandelions), but I am sure those fake meats are not healthy. My diet consists of mostly raw organic fruits and vegetables, some seeds and nuts, sometimes quinoa, millet, or rice. It's baffling to me that my LDL could be as high as it is. Everything else is good though.


Adjunct prof.rosellfernandez answered...

Use fermented soy. Nattokinase.Just remember this.. each and every single one of us has to experiment on what is right for us. One person's "soy" is another person's poison.

I use soy sparingly. The cooked kind is best. The drinks are processed. Just remember that word and remember that.

NO ONE practitioner has ALL the answers. Not your doctor, not your so called dieticians, dietary "experts" they are the worst, nurses, you or me. Every one want to be an expert..well No one is an expert. These are guidelines.

For example Green Tea all the wonderful things said about it but no one tells you how highly acidic it is. Black Tea helps to lower BP but no one tells you about the tannins (poisons). Spinach which I love -high in acid- Black Beans which I love -high in fiber yes and high in acid.. There is a very serious reason why you have to soak the beans overnight and throw out the water. Very serious. We can go on and on. Best advice:KEEP READING..from all sources..and when you google for help always put it in reverse..for instance what are the dangers of? then add the name of the medicine or food. All in the universe has a ying and yan. Including water. All things in balance. The more humble the advice the greater it is, as it gives you options. There are no"expert" opinions , that is marketing ploy. The experts told me my beautiful mother, whose picture you see,was at "get ready : "at a danger of aspiration". Liars. As a result she died of MALNUTRITION DESPITE MY PLEAS, ARGUMENTS, CHALLENGES WITH THE SO CALLED EXPERTS, SOME 26-YEAR OLD WITH A CERTIFICATE IN SPEECH THERAPY. PLEASE DON'T LET ME GET STARTED. USE YOUR GOD GIVEN INTELLIGENCE COUPLED WITH EVERYTHING ELSE YOU HEAR. DON'T GIVE UP YOUR POWER. FOR THE PERSON WHO SAID THEIR LDL WAS 122. See below:

* Heredity. High blood cholesterol can run in families. An inherited genetic condition (familial hypercholesterolemia) results in very high LDL cholesterol levels. It begins at birth, and may result in a heart attack at an early age. * Age and sex. Starting at puberty, men have lower levels of HDL than women. As women and men get older, their LDL cholesterol levels rise. Younger women have lower LDL cholesterol levels than men, but after age 55, women have higher levels than men.


Shayh answered...

Very helpful Getting back to nature and the way God inteneded for us to eat can only improve our health.


Ainsley answered...

All very helpful. And I do drink a lot of green tea and take lots of soy and omega-3. I am not sure of the benefits of adding Prunes to my diet, however, without any medical advice, I have started eating four or five prunes daily, primarily because I like it. Am I doing myself any harm in the process.


Zephyr answered...

I disagree about soy being a healthy food, most especially is if the soy is from GMO seed and not organic. All the fake meat products containing soy protein isolate are particularly deplorable. Through more research and contemplation, I realized that my high BP was due to hypothyroidism. I was eating an abundance of raw goitrogenic foods every day but consuming no iodine at all. I have started ingesting sea weed daily, usually kelp, watching the foods I eat, and adding more flaxseed oil or ground seed to my daily intake. I have also discovered chia seeds and am enjoying "pudding" from raw soaked seeds flavored with healthy stuff (applesauce, maple syrup or honey, carob powder, vanilla, almond butter,...). My BP is now normal and I am feeling much much better. Depressed thyroid activity is very normal in post-menopausal women and can easily be exacerbated by even healthy foods. My particular culprits were raw kale, spinach, and cabbage.


Adjunct prof.rosellfernandez answered...

Disagree with what? Just to be disagreeable or contrarian? which is the current American cultural behavior. Some folks live to be 109-years of age eating soy all their lives in Japan and worse pray tell -some folks to 114 years of age with southern American soul food.. Now what? soy is in the category of other foods which are not so good for you, or maybe they are.


Struggling sandwich answered...

We do all need to listen to our bodies. We are wired to heal ourselves and yes, each body is different. Use your common sense coupled with asking your body what it needs/wants. Soy? Stay away from it! It is all GMO! Unfermented soy is the ONLY kind of soy you ever want. They do not eat nearly as much "soy" in the east as we think. Just because someone has a degree, or certificate, does not mean they know the best thing for you. Learn about Muscle testing. Your body will tell you whether something is beneficial or not. Yes! Your own body knows best. It always has and always will.

There are some very wise folks that answer on this board, there is no set answer for everyone. Each body is slightly different. Some of us need more animal protein, some of us don't.

The acids and alkalines are something to take note of....

Adjunct Prof and Zephyr...Right on!

We would do well to listen to our own bodies and take everything else with about a pound of (sea)salt!

When it comes from the mainstream, our first question should be; "Who paid for this?"


Shirleybill answered...

Have a second test done on your cholestrol as a preventive measure. I was just diagnosed with the same thing, and then referred to a cancer doctor, after being given the high cholestrol drug. I luckily only took one of the pills before doing my own research on the pills..very bad indeed. The other doctor did not seem to find any evidence of high cholestrol.


Walepen answered...

Love and Kiss's too you. After 3-bypass, Refused further medication because of side effects.Changed lifestyle with food,way of cooking,exercise and going by rules suggested from your world and lowered cholestrol and triglyceride count to the point the Doctors caught their breath and kept their pills.Proper eating habits do make a big difference.I'm on my own.Best Regards, Jack Kunce PS:very helpful


Alchicago answered...

When you ask a medical question you will get an entire spectrum of answers some are probably helpfull whereas the majority are from 2nd 3rd or 4th hand knowledge and may or may not have any basis of fact. Listen to YOUR Dr. he knows your Medical history best. Eat a well balanced diet and leave the treatment to the Dr. Go to one (1) primary care provider as Dr,s are human also and they often have differing opinions. Medicine is not like math, there may be several correct answers. Stay away from self diagnosis. All that will do is confuse you.


Sillama answered...

With my doctor's approval, I take a teaspoon of turmeric every day. This brought my cholesterol down from 400 to 197. I eat seaweed every day, mostly Nori, called Kim in Korea, and a tender green kelp-like kind called Miyok. I'm lucky to have an M.D. who also knows a lot about Korean herbal medicine, Ayurveda, and alternative treatments.


Seorsa answered...

This probably won't be popular here, but I eliminated all but 20 grams of carbs a day from my diet, essentially no fruits or vegetables other than spinach, celery, cucumbers and some onions. My diet consisted of chicken, tuna with canola mayo, eggs and bacon (about 1/2 pound a day). I am 49, and though my cholesterol was OK (189-220), my LDL was rising steadily over 6 years and was too high (169)with total cholesterol at 230! After 3 months on a carb restricted diet I got my best cholesterol reading since I was in my late 20's! Here are the details: Cholesterol- 174, Triglyceride- 90 HDL- 51!!!! and LDL 105!!!!!!!!!!!! I have continued to lose weight and have added more vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower, reduced the bacon and sausage in favor of meats and fish with less fat, and have continued to lose weight just quite slowly. BTW- I did all this while REDUCING my exercise from a lot to almost none. My work situation is now getting stabilized and I hope to get better results and a healthier feeling by getting back to the physical activities I love.


Mskite answered...

The answers are good. A proper diet will help lower bad cholesterol. In Feb 2010 my bad ch. was 280. I had been taking Lipitor but it was not helping much. Someone told me to take fish oil and flax seed oil. I bought the 1000 mg fish oil and flax seed oil. took 3 fish oils and 1 flax seed oil a day. In 1 1/2 months my bad cholesterol wax lowered 100 points. Using this and a good diet should keep it normal. PS This was documented by blood tests.


A fellow caregiver answered...

eating grapefruit twice a day will whack your choresterol right in half almost immediately, god grows something to help everything, and satakee mushrooms grown in japan actively attach aberant cells especially cancer


And so on answered...

I can add also 40 grm of each green Arena and coriandor added to salad will very helpful to lower bad cholesterol, also 20 minutes walking daily. use vergin olive oil 2 table spoon, it is very helpful.


Snp answered...

All suggestive answers are helpful at present my bad CH. is 250 & i am taking CRESTOR-20mg. regularly. but not helpful effectively. doing 20 minutes walking daily. pl.suggest alternative medicine regards, SHRIRAM


Healthyinmi answered...

@alchicago, while we should listen to our Dr.'s advice, we have to remember that they are human and are NOT always right and DO NOT always know what is best for us. We need to be very aware of what our body is telling us --especially to any new or unusual symptoms --no matter how minor.

To make a long story short, 3 1/2 years ago I was passing out at least once a year between '06 & '09--- I fell down the basement stairs 3 times and ended up with a rock lodged in my skull one time when I fell outside. My neurologist kept telling me it was from the seizures. My neurologist is a very good doctor, but in this case he was wrong.

NOTE: I had no other health problems other than high cholesterol at this point --that anyone was aware of. My heart started racing one night while I was laying down so I went into emergency. After some tests they found that I needed a quadruple (4 valves) bypass! I didn't have any of the normal "risk factors" for heart disease like smoking, drinking, family history.... The cause: I was eating too many processed foods, too many fast foods and NEVER exercised --I thought exercise was for people who are overweight & I didn't need to lose any. Today after totally changing my eating habits and exercising, my arteries are clean, my heart is good, and the doctors are amazed.


Mzsjey answered...

Here is my answer ,all your father need to do is put some oatmeal in some yogurt with fruit in it ,but do not cook the oat meal it must be raw because it works better that way, and if he don,t like yogurt just use fruit and some whip cream ,it really works I have done this myself and in three weeks I was fine, try it and see and let me know Jacqueline Lee


Sazure answered...

My first paper while in collage and taking nutrition, in 1972 or 73 was on "The Myth of Cholesterol". Now vindicated by recent US Government dietary "guidelines". Find a natural path or MD who chooses natural therapies over toxic drugs (only 11 states however have "medical freedom laws" meaning the MD or Natural-paths can lose their license if not).

Every cell in your body needs this, esp the brain. And being so vital, if one does not get enough in the diet, the liver makes it. Sunlight and cholesterol makes Vitamin D (skin). Can repeat raw data research (background biochemistry, chemistry of arts and much more). But did deep to find the truth. That said, the animal fats (this is a type of "fat" a lipid) is different if grown in chicken coops with manure dripping down, verses outdoors (indoor often floors layers of chicken poop). Or cattle, grass range verses grains (they can not digest grains).

AMA (American Medical Association was started by a Rockefeller long ago - to stamp out plant based natural therapies and they and Rx have done a great job of it. The Rx companies make toxic products then tell you that a cure is in their Rx (toxicity effects not side effects one of my degrees was in pre masters health OT).

Your fragrance products are left over petro sludge (easy to search now - toxins in perfumes).


Rosemary44 answered...

90% of all soy sold here and added to many products out there on our store shelves, are a GMO food. Plus, it's not recommended for people fighting cancer. Flax is recommended to eat. Omega 3's, fish, nuts and olive oil are great for lowering cholesterol. Green tea, no sugar, with lemon adds to the process.

All I did was to gave up eating the obvious cholesterol upping foods, red meat, etc. and added the nuts, omega 3's, tea and down went my numbers. We eat too much of omega 6 foods. Lower them, add in the O3's and bingo, great numbers will eventually follow. Our brains need cholesterol to think. So getting the lowest of low numbers, is not really the goal.