The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that nearly
People often call high-density lipoprotein (HDL) the “good cholesterol” because it’s associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is the “bad cholesterol” because it’s associated with a higher risk. Doctors measure both these types of cholesterol to measure your risk of developing heart disease.
Making lifestyle changes may be enough to get your cholesterol into a healthy range. If you’re at a high risk of developing cardiovascular complications, a doctor may recommend taking statins or other medications.
Here are 15 ways, backed by scientific studies, to help keep your cholesterol levels at optimal levels for your heart health.
What are healthy cholesterol levels?
Doctors commonly measure your total cholesterol as well as
|Amount in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)
|about 150 mg/dL
|about 100 mg/dL
|at least 40 mg/dL in men
at least 50 mg/dL in women
|less than 150 mg/dL
In many cases, lifestyle changes alone are enough to get your cholesterol levels into a healthy range. Here are some ways you can manage your cholesterol levels at home.
1. Exercise regularly
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends getting at least
- brisk walking
- water aerobics
Regular exercise can also help you maintain a moderate weight. A
- total cholesterol
If you’re currently inactive, you might find 150 minutes per week intimidating at first. In a
2. Quit smoking
Quitting smoking can benefit many aspects of your health, including lowering your cholesterol. In a
- 60% higher chance of having low HDL
- 20% higher chance of having high total cholesterol
- 30% higher chance of having high triglycerides
Quitting smoking can greatly decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease, but heavy smokers may still be at an elevated risk
3. Consume alcohol in moderation
- fasting glucose
The researchers also found that among people who drank alcohol, those who drank wine exclusively had better cardiovascular health than those who drank beer exclusively.
It’s important to note that the
Here are some dietary changes you can make to help manage your cholesterol levels.
4. Limit saturated and trans fat
- whole grains
- low fat dairy
5. Cook more at home
Food cooked at restaurants often contains higher levels of saturated fat and sugar than meals you prepare at home.
There are still several unknowns about the role of sugar on cholesterol levels, but
- Select cuts of meat and poultry with minimal fat.
- Trim all visible fat when cooking.
- Broil rather than pan fry your meats.
- Choose chicken and turkey over fattier duck and goose.
- Remove the skin of chicken and turkey before cooking.
- Limit processed meats such as hot dogs, salami, and sausage.
The AHA has a
6. Add avocado to your diet
7. Eat more soluble fiber
Weight loss and cholesterol management
Many of the above lifestyle and dietary changes directly contribute to losing weight. According to the AHA, losing about
Here’s an overview of medications used to treat cholesterol levels.
Statins are the most prescribed cholesterol medications. They work by decreasing cholesterol production in your liver. Statins are generally
- Cholesterol absorption inhibitors: Cholesterol absorption inhibitors lower LDL by preventing your intestines from absorbing LDL. They’re the
most commonnon-statin used to treat high cholesterol.
- Bile acid sequestrants: Bile acid sequestrants help your body get rid of LDL cholesterol. They’re often used together with statins.
- PCSK9 inhibitors: PCSK9 inhibitors inhibit certain proteins from breaking down LDL receptors in your liver. This allows your liver to take up more LDL and break it down so it doesn’t stay in your blood.
- Adenosine triphosphate-citrate lyase inhibitors: These medications work by blocking the production of cholesterol in your liver. They’re used with statins and lifestyle changes to treat familial heterozygous hypercholesterolemia.
- Fibrates: Fibrates are
especially goodat lowering triglyceride levels but can slightly lower LDL levels as well.
Some types of supplements may help lower cholesterol levels. It’s important to talk with a doctor before taking supplements since they may come with risks.
10. Psyllium fiber supplements
Psyllium is a type of fiber made from husks of Plantago ovata seeds. Some studies suggest that psyllium may lower LDL cholesterol by
11. Fish oil
Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids that are linked to increased cardiovascular health. Several
12. Coenzyme Q10
13. Plant sterols
Plant sterols are waxes from plants that may help reduce the amount of cholesterol absorbed in your body. Reviews of studies show that 1.5 to 3 grams per day may lower LDL cholesterol by
Niacin is also called vitamin B3. Some
Fenugreek is an herb common in Indian dishes. In a
Questions for a doctor
If you have high cholesterol, it’s important to visit a doctor regularly so you can
- What should my target cholesterol levels be?
- Will I need to take medication?
- What are the potential side effects of medications?
- How often should I have my cholesterol checked?
- What are the risks of not lowering my cholesterol?
- How long will it take to lower my cholesterol?
You can lower your cholesterol levels with a combination of lifestyle habits and, if needed, medications. Some habits that may lower your cholesterol include:
- increasing your exercise levels
- losing weight if you’re overweight
- eating a diet low in saturated and trans fats
Some studies show that eating less processed sugar may also help to reduce your cholesterol levels.
If you’re at a high risk of developing cardiovascular complications, a doctor may prescribe statins or another medication. These medications can be effective but can also cause side effects. Some supplements may also have cholesterol lowering effects, but it’s important to talk with a doctor before taking them.