4 Simple Tips to Lower Your LDL Cholesterol

Having high levels of LDL cholesterol, also known as “bad” cholesterol, can place you at risk of developing heart disease if it is left untreated. 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.

Although many cholesterol medications can lower LDL levels to varying degrees, your healthcare provider may want to use therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLC) to see how low your LDL can go before medication is needed.

Whether you want to lower your LDL or prevent your LDL from increasing, a few tips can help you keep it within a healthy range.

Ways to Lower Your LDL Cholesterol
Verywell / JR Bee

Weight Loss and Diet

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

Although studies have shown that losing weight helps lower LDL, they have also shown that eating the right types of foods can help your heart health. Foods that are high in soluble fiber and phytosterols, as well as healthy fats such as olive oil, have been found to be helpful in lowering LDL cholesterol.

In "Your Guide to Lowering Cholesterol With TLC," the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute notes that it is possible to reduce your LDL by 20-30% with a few simple changes in diet:

  • Allowing less than 7% of calories to be from saturated fats can reduce LDL by 8-10%.
  • Decreasing daily cholesterol intake to less than 200mg can lower LDL by 5-8%.
  • Losing 10 pounds can reduce your LDL by 5-8%.
  • Adding 5 to 10 grams of soluble fiber to your day can decrease LDL 3-5%.
  • Adding 2 grams daily of plant sterols can reduce LDL by 5-15%.

More long-term studies are needed in order to determine whether or not it is the actual loss of weight or the diet and exercise that go along with it that causes the reduction in LDL levels. It is also possible that LDL cholesterol can eventually return to original levels, even when weight loss is maintained. Nonetheless, the prospect makes weight maintenance and good nutrition worthy goals to have.

Increase Your Physical Activity

Exercise is not only good for losing weight, but moderate amounts of it may also help lower your cholesterol levels—especially your LDL cholesterol. Aerobic exercises, such as running, cycling, jogging, and swimming, appear to benefit cholesterol the most by lowering LDL and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to studies.

Other forms of exercise, such as yoga, walking, and weight-bearing exercises, have also been shown to modestly decrease LDL levels. Though they have not been studied to the extent of aerobic exercise.

Stop Smoking

Smoking cessation not only has a large impact on levels of HDL, or “good” cholesterol, it can also slightly lower LDL levels. 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 will decrease as soon as you stop smoking. With each month after quitting, LDL levels continue to lower, even partially reversing the effects of smoking on cholesterol after just 90 days.

Alcohol and LDL Levels

Although moderate consumption of alcohol can significantly raise HDL levels, it can also lower LDL, according to studies. Moderate consumption means one drink a day for women and one to two drinks per day for men. A typical serving of alcohol includes 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 getting heart disease.

A Word From Verywell

With a few simple lifestyle changes, your LDL cholesterol levels can become lower. Depending on your current cholesterol levels, however, these steps may not be enough. While it is good to make these changes because they will impact your overall health, be sure to follow your doctor's recommendations regarding other ways to treat high cholesterol. Use our Doctor Discussion Guide below to help you start that conversation about the right treatment for you.

Cholesterol Doctor Discussion Guide

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

Doctor Discussion Guide Old Man
Was this page helpful?
Article 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. Ooi EM, Lichtenstein AH, Millar JS, et al. Effects of Therapeutic Lifestyle Change diets high and low in dietary fish-derived FAs on lipoprotein metabolism in middle-aged and elderly subjectsJ Lipid Res. 2012;53(9):1958–1967. doi:10.1194/jlr.P024315

  2. Galindo Y. Cholesterol Levels Improve With Weight Loss and Healthy Fat-Rich Diet. University of California San Diego Health. Published January 28, 2016.

  3. Le T, Flatt SW, Natarajan L, et al. Effects of Diet Composition and Insulin Resistance Status on Plasma Lipid Levels in a Weight Loss Intervention in Women. J Am Heart Assoc. 2016;5(1). doi:10.1161/JAHA.115.002771

  4. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Your Guide to Lowering Cholesterol With TLC. Published December 2005. nhlbi.nih.gov

  5. Yunsuk K, Park J, Carter R. Oxidized low-density lipoprotein and cell adhesion molecules following exercise trainingInternational Journal of Sports Medicine. 2017. doi:10.1055/s-0043-118848.

  6. Zhou MS, Chadipiralla K, Mendez AJ, et al. Nicotine potentiates proatherogenic effects of oxLDL by stimulating and upregulating macrophage CD36 signaling. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2013;305(4):H563-74. doi:10.1152/ajpheart.00042.2013

  7. Zhang Y, Chen L, Feng C, et al. ASSA 14-13-01 cigarette smoking-induced LDL dysfunction is partially reversible after smoking cessationHeart. 2015;101:A40–A41. doi:10.1136/heartjnl-2014-307109.107

  8. Tabara Y, et al. Mendelian randomization analysis in three japanese populartions supports a casual role of alcohol consumption in lowering low-density cholesterol levels and particle numbersAtherosclerosis. 2016;254:242–248. doi:10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2016.08.021