How to Lower LDL Cholesterol With Lifestyle Changes

Medication isn't always needed to reduce "bad" cholesterol

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Some risk factors for heart disease and stroke can't be changed, but high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol isn't one of them. Lifestyle changes can often get levels of this "bad" cholesterol back to the normal range, reducing the chances of it getting stuck in your arteries and turning into plaque.

Cholesterol medication may be an appropriate option for how to lower LDL cholesterol in some cases. But lifestyle strategies like these are often recommended first—not just because they don't pose the risks that drugs do, but because they really work:

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Losing weight if you are overweight or obese
  • Getting regular physical activity
  • Quitting smoking (if applicable)

This article explains how to lower LDL cholesterol with these lifestyle changes. It also tells you what you need to know about alcohol consumption, LDL, and your overall heart health.

Ways to Lower Your LDL Cholesterol
Verywell / JR Bee

How Diet and Weight Loss Lower LDL

A natural way to lower your LDL cholesterol is by making changes to your diet, especially if those changes support a healthy weight.

Being overweight or having obesity puts you at risk for developing high LDL levels and also contributes to heart disease and other chronic medical conditions. Research has shown that losing even a small amount of weight (less than five pounds) may help lower your LDL levels.

If My LDL Goes Down After I Lose Weight, Will It Stay That Way?

Even if you lose weight and keep it off, LDL cholesterol levels might go back to what it was before you made these changes. If you're feeling frustrated, remember that there are many other health benefits of weight maintenance and a nutritious diet.

Eating right can help your heart health, too. Foods high in soluble fiber, phytosterols, and healthy fats like olive oil have been found to help lower LDL cholesterol.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute notes that it's possible to reduce your LDL by between 20% and 30% with a few simple changes:

  • Getting less than 7% of your daily calories from saturated fats can reduce LDL by between 8% and 10%
  • Decreasing your daily cholesterol intake to less than 200 milligrams can lower LDL by between 5% and 8%
  • Losing 10 pounds can reduce your LDL by between 5% and 8%
  • Adding 5 grams to 10 grams of soluble fiber a day can decrease LDL by between 3% and 5%
  • Adding 2 daily grams of plant sterols can reduce LDL by between 5% and 15%

Lowering LDL With Physical Activity

Exercise is not only helpful for losing weight, but moderate amounts of physical activity can be a way to lower your LDL cholesterol naturally. Aerobic exercises, such as running, cycling, jogging, and swimming, appear to stand the best chance of lowering LDL while also reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Other forms of exercise, such as yoga, walking, and weight-bearing exercises have been shown to modestly decrease LDL levels. However, these activities have not been studied to the same extent as aerobic exercise for lowering cholesterol.

The Impact of Quitting Smoking

Cigarette smoking is linked to higher cholesterol levels and the formation of a damaging form of LDL called oxidized LDL that contributes to atherosclerosis.

One of the quickest ways to lower your cholesterol is to quit smoking. Research has shown that cholesterol levels drop as soon as you stop smoking.

Each month after quitting, your LDL levels drop even more. After 90 days, the effects of smoking on cholesterol can be reversed quite a lot.

Can Alcohol Lower LDL Cholesterol?

Yes. Studies show that moderate alcohol consumption—one serving a day for women and one to two servings per day for men—can raise levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL). This "good" cholesterol absorbs LDL and carries it back to the liver so it can leave the body, reducing LDL levels. Know, though, that drinking more than three alcoholic drinks a day may increase your chances of developing heart disease.


Many natural ways to lower your LDL cholesterol will work best if they become part of your lifestyle for the long term.

Eating well, managing your weight, exercising, quitting smoking, and limiting your alcohol intake can lower your LDL cholesterol levels and help keep them in a healthy range.

A Word From Verywell

You might be motivated to try to lower your LDL levels quickly, and that's great. But it can take time for these lifestyle changes to pay off, so try not to get frustrated if you don't see results right away.

Even if you end up needing a prescription medication to lower your LDL cholesterol, lifestyle changes will remain an important part of your management plan.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What natural options reduce LDL cholesterol quickly?

    Eating more of a plant-based diet tends to be an effective strategy. However, it often takes six to 12 months for any lifestyle modifications to yield results.

  • How quickly can you decrease LDL?

    Medications can lower cholesterol within a week. Lifestyle changes usually take at least several months, but this varies per person.

  • What is considered dangerously high cholesterol?

    A total cholesterol that's 240 mg/dL or greater is considered high and potentially dangerous. What is considered high for LDL varies based on individual risk factors for heart disease.

Cholesterol Healthcare Provider Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next healthcare provider's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

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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.
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By Jennifer Moll, PharmD
Jennifer Moll, MS, PharmD, is a pharmacist actively involved in educating patients about the importance of heart disease prevention.