Ways You Can Lower Your High Cholesterol

If you have high cholesterol, keeping your cholesterol levels within a normal range is especially important to your heart. You can lower your cholesterol in many ways. Many of these ways are relatively cheap and involve making just a few simple changes to your lifestyle. These are especially important if you do not get a lot of exercise, smoke, or consume a poor diet.

On the other hand, if your cholesterol levels are not budging despite leading a healthy lifestyle, you need medication. Although they can be expensive, cholesterol-lowering medications can prevent heart disease and even save your life.

1

Exercise Regularly

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Exercise is an important ingredient in your lifestyle. It strengthens bones and muscles, aids in weight loss, and can even give you a sense of well-being. Additionally, exercise is also important in keeping your heart healthy. Exercise has also been proven to modestly lower LDL cholesterol, as well as boost your "good" cholesterol, or HDL. No matter your age or your current athletic status, exercise can benefit you. And, an exercise regimen out there can suit your needs.

So what should aim for, when developing a routine for physical activity? Here’s a breakdown:

  • Start slowly: The key to incorporating more exercise, most often, is to start with what you can manage, and build up from there. You can start with as little as 15 to 20 minutes a day of light activity, such as walks or swimming. Once you get into the swing of things, you can scale up your activity.
  • Weekly activity: You want to get at least 150 minutes of light to moderate activity per week. This is about 30 minutes a day—not including warm-up and cool down—on five of the seven days. Eventually, your goal will be to get to 200 minutes a week of exercise (30 minutes a day, every day, or 40 minutes a day five days a week).
  • Intensity: Ideally, you want to push yourself without overexertion. When working out, you should be able to converse without losing your breath too much. In that vein, you shouldn’t be able to sing while exercising. It can be helpful to take a fitness class or work with a trainer to help you reach your goals.
2

Consume a Healthy Diet

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What you eat has a great deal of influence over your cholesterol levels, so changes in diet can go a long way in managing them. It’s not as simple as cutting dietary cholesterol, though that may help. Several have been devised to help, including the DASH diet and the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) diet.

Keys to these approaches are:

  • Healthier fats: Aim to reduce intake of saturated fats, as in beef, pork, cheese, and bacon. Instead, consider sources of healthy, non-saturated fat, as in nuts, fish, beans, poultry (with the skin off), and soy foods. Trans-fats, the kind in fried foods, dairy products, baked goods, and processed foods, should also be avoided.
  • Fiber: Foods high in soluble fiber, like leafy greens, whole grain breads, apples and other fruit, and beans, stop cholesterol from being absorbed by your digestive system.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables: Diets rich in fresh fruit and vegetables stimulate the production of plant stanols, which, like fiber, can prevent the absorption of cholesterol.
  • Cholesterol: While levels of dietary cholesterol—as in egg yolks, organ meat, and shrimp—are not as directly connected to your levels, it’s still a good idea to limit consumption. That said, many foods that are high in cholesterol are also high in trans and saturated fats.
  • Salt: If your salt intake is high, you’re at a higher risk of heart disease. It’s currently recommended you eat less than 2,300 mg, or about a teaspoon, a day. Be wary of packaged foods, as these often have higher salt content.
  • Omega 3 fatty acids: This fatty acid is known to help raise HDL cholesterol without raising LDL, in turn lowering the risk of heart attack. Salmon, tuna, and other fish are excellent sources of omega 3s, and flax seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts also have it.
  • Sugars: As with salt, you’ll need to cut back on added sugars. Watch out for ingredients like glucose, fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, and sucrose (among others) when you buy packaged foods. Limit or cut out cakes, cookies, and other candies.
3

Get Your Diabetes and Other Conditions Under Control

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Studies have linked high cholesterol and triglyceride levels with other health conditions, such as thyroid disease, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes.

Since studies have also linked chronic stress with high cholesterol, figuring out healthy ways to manage it can also be a key to management. Approaches to reduce stress include:

  • Improving sleep quality
  • Meditation and exercise
  • Seeking support from family and friends
  • Treating mental health conditions like anxiety and depression
  • Developing strategies to manage anger

When these conditions are not properly addressed or completely ignored your cholesterol levels, as well as other aspects of that particular condition, become out of control. By treating these health conditions, you can also help keep your cholesterol levels within a normal range.

4

Stop Smoking

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Smoking is a habit that cannot only cause lung disease but can also affect your heart. Smoking has also been linked to raising cholesterol levels and promoting the formation of a particularly damaging form of LDL, referred to as oxidized LDL. This form of LDL can contribute to the formation of atherosclerosis, which can eventually occlude vessels in the body.

By making a plan to quit smoking today, you can decrease your chances of having cancer and other conditions, such as heart disease.

5

Take Medication If You Need It

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Many medications on the market have been proven to help lower your cholesterol levels as well as prevent heart disease and death. Ideally, these medications should be used when you have attempted to modify your lifestyle and have stuck to those changes. In some cases, however, your cholesterol levels may not budge and you might require medications.

Several classes of drugs may be prescribed:

If you've been prescribed any of these medications, make sure you stick to your doctor's orders and be aware of side effects or adverse reactions.

In very rare cases, especially when the high cholesterol is genetic, medications and lifestyle changes will still be insufficient. A procedure called lipoprotein apheresis may be employed. This involves using specialized medical equipment to remove cholesterol from the blood.

6

Investigate the Possibility of Using Supplements

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Additionally, supplements are available that can also modestly help lower your cholesterol. There isn't a lot of research available regarding these supplements, but the studies performed so far appear to favor their use if your cholesterol needs an extra push. H

owever, before you venture out to the herbal aisle of your favorite store, be sure and discuss your plans with your healthcare provider. Some supplements can interact with other medications you may already be taking. Additionally, some of these supplements do not work for everyone.

More popular supplements include:

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3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Cleveland Clinic. Cholesterol: types, tests, treatments, prevention. Updated July 21, 2020.

  2. Cleveland Clinic. Cholesterol-lowering exercise tips. Updated July 17, 2019.

  3. National Institutes of Health. How to lower cholesterol with diet. Updated May 5, 2021.