4 Simple Tips to Lower Your LDL Cholesterol

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It's not called the "bad cholesterol" for nothing.

Having untreated high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) can place you at risk for heart disease and stroke if it becomes trapped in your arteries and turns to plaque. The good news is that, unlike other risk factors, you may be able to prevent high LDL levels or lower your LDL levels if they are already high.

Many cholesterol medications can lower LDL levels. But your healthcare provider may advise you to try therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLC) to see how low your LDL can go before putting you on medication. Whether you want to lower your LDL or prevent it from increasing, following a few tips can help you keep it within a healthy range.

This article explains how following a sensible diet, losing extra weight, exercising regularly, quitting smoking, and drinking in moderation can put "bad cholesterol" in its place.

Ways to Lower Your LDL Cholesterol
Verywell / JR Bee

Pay Attention to Diet and Weight Loss

Being overweight or obese not only places you at risk for developing high LDL levels, but it can also contribute to heart disease and other chronic medical conditions. Research shows that losing even a small amount of weight (less than five pounds) may help lower your LDL levels.

Eating right can help your heart health, too. Foods high in soluble fiber and 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:

  • Allowing less than 7% of calories to be from saturated fats can reduce LDL by between 8% and 10%.
  • Decreasing 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%.

It's possible for LDL cholesterol to eventually return to original levels, even when you lose weight and maintain it. Nonetheless, the benefits make weight maintenance and good nutrition worthy goals to pursue.

Increase Physical Activity

Exercise is not only good for losing weight, but moderate amounts of it may also help lower your LDL cholesterol. Aerobic exercises, such as running, cycling, jogging, and swimming, appear to stand the best chance at lowering LDL while 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.

Stop Smoking

Cigarette smoking is linked to higher cholesterol levels as well as the formation of a damaging form of LDL called oxidized LDL, which contributes to atherosclerosis.

Research has shown that cholesterol levels drop as soon as you stop smoking. With each month after quitting, LDL levels drop even more. After 90 days, the effects of smoking on cholesterol can be reversed even more.

Consume Alcohol Moderately

Although "moderate" consumption of alcohol can raise high-density lipoproteins (HDL) levels, it can also lower LDL, according to studies. The "good" HDL lipoproteins absorb cholesterol and carry it back to the liver before the liver ushers it out of the body.

Moderate consumption means one serving a day for women and one to two servings per day for men. (A serving is 12 ounces of beer or 5 ounces of wine.) However, drinking more alcohol doesn’t necessarily equal better results in terms of improving your heart health. Studies have also indicated that drinking more than three alcoholic drinks a day could actually increase your chances of developing heart disease.

Summary

Medication isn't the only way to lower your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels. Eating right, losing weight, exercising, quitting smoking, and drinking only moderate amounts of alcohol can lower your "bad cholesterol" levels. Physicians tend to focus on LDLs because they can put you at risk for heart disease and stroke if they build up in your arteries.

A Word From Verywell

As hopeful as you might feel about lowering you LDL levels, remember your baseline, or where you're starting from. In other words, while these proactive steps may make a difference, they not be enough. Be sure to follow your healthcare provider's recommendations regarding the best ways to treat your high cholesterol.

Turn to our Healthcare Provider Discussion Guide below to help start that conversation.

Cholesterol Healthcare Provider Discussion Guide

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

Doctor Discussion Guide Old Man
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9 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.
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