The dangers of high cholesterol are well-documented and well-known, and lowering the level of cholesterol has become a topic of great concern to millions of all ages. Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that builds up in the body over time. If levels are too high, cholesterol can block arteries and prevent blood from flowing to vital organs which can lead to serious complications, including heart attacks and strokes.

There are numerous ways to reduce the cholesterol in the body but doing so naturally, by combining a healthy diet with regular physical activity, is perhaps the most inexpensive and practical method. It can be adopted by almost anyone, regardless of age, socioeconomic status or geographical location.

Adopting a healthier diet is one of the best ways to lower cholesterol. There are a number of foods that naturally work to reduce the amount of LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) and/or raise the amount of HDL (the “good” cholesterol) in the body. Some examples are fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and beans. Many of these foods contain plant sterols and stanols. These are chemicals that are a lot like cholesterol, so when they are traveling through the body, they get absorbed by the digestive tract instead of the cholesterol. That way, the cholesterol just gets naturally eliminated. While sterols and stanols are naturally occurring in a number of foods, manufacturers are starting to add them to foods like orange juice, cereals, and granola bars.

A healthy diet also includes foods high in fiber and protein content. These foods help with weight loss, which experts say is one of the most effective ways of lowering cholesterol. Fiber-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, and beans.

It is especially important to avoid eating foods with high trans-fatty acid and saturated fat contents. Red meat is one such example. Excessive intake of these types of foods is a major risk factor for high cholesterol. Healthy substitutions that are lower in fat and calories include fish and poultry.

In addition to a healthy diet, exercise is a vital component of any cholesterol-reducing regimen. Regular physical activity has been shown to lower the level of LDL cholesterol in the blood. The key to effectively lowering cholesterol through physical activity is to focus on frequency and time, not intensity. Experts recommend exercising more often and for longer periods of time.

Managing diet and staying active are things that almost anyone can do. Both take determination and discipline, but sticking with a healthy diet and exercise regimen will lead to both lower cholesterol and an overall positive feeling.