4 Simple Tips to Lower Your LDL Cholesterol

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Having untreated high levels of LDL cholesterol, the “bad” cholesterol, can place you at risk of developing heart disease. 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 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.

Ways to Lower Your LDL Cholesterol
Verywell / JR Bee

Diet and Weight Loss

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've also shown that eating the right types of foods can help your heart health. Foods high in soluble fiber and phytosterols, and healthy fats like olive oil, have been found to help lower LDL cholesterol.

In "Your Guide to Lowering Cholesterol With TLC," 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 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 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 beween 5% and 15%.

More long-term studies are needed in order to determine whether it's the actual weight loss or the diet and exercise that go along with it that causes the reduction in LDL levels.

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

Increase 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 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 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 healthcare provider'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.

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