Lack of treatment for high LDL cholesterol, the "bad" cholesterol, can put you at risk for heart disease. The good news is that, unlike other risk factors, you can prevent high LDL cholesterol or lower LDL cholesterol if it is already high.
While many cholesterol medications can lower your LDL cholesterol levels to varying degrees, your healthcare provider may want to use therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLC) to see how low you could lower your LDL cholesterol before prescribe medication .
If you want to lower your LDL levels or prevent them from rising, there are some tips to keep your LDL levels within a healthy range.
Diet and weight loss
Being overweight or obese not only puts you at risk for developing high LDL cholesterol, it can also contribute to heart disease and other chronic diseases. Research shows that losing even a small amount of weight can help lower LDL cholesterol levels .
While studies have shown that losing weight can help lower LDL levels, they have also shown that eating the right foods can help your heart. Foods high in soluble fiber and phytosterols, as well as healthy fats like olive oil, have been found to help lower LDL cholesterol.
In its Guide to Lowering Cholesterol with TLC , the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute notes that it is possible to lower LDL cholesterol levels by 20-30% with a few simple dietary changes :
- If less than 7% of your calories come from saturated fat, you can lower your LDL cholesterol levels by 8-10%.
- Reducing your daily cholesterol intake to less than 200 mg can lower LDL cholesterol levels by 5% to 8%.
- Losing 10 pounds can lower your LDL levels by 5-8%.
- Adding 5-10 grams of soluble fiber per day can lower your LDL cholesterol levels by 3-5%.
- Adding 2 grams of plant sterols per day can lower LDL levels by 5-15%.
More long-term studies are needed to determine whether actual weight loss or diet and exercise that accompany low LDL levels cause it.
LDL cholesterol can eventually return to baseline levels even if you lose weight and keep it off. Nonetheless, the benefits make weight maintenance and eating worthwhile.
Increase physical activity.
Not only is exercise good for weight loss, but moderate exercise can help lower cholesterol, especially LDL cholesterol.
According to research, aerobic exercise such as running, cycling, jogging, and swimming appear to provide the most cholesterol benefits by reducing LDL levels and the risk of heart disease .
Other forms of exercise, such as yoga, walking, and weight training, have also been shown to moderately lower LDL levels. Although they have not been studied to the extent of aerobic exercise.
Not only does quitting smoke strongly affect your HDL, or "good" cholesterol, it can also slightly lower your LDL cholesterol.
Studies have shown that your cholesterol levels will drop as soon as you stop smoking. Every month after quitting, LDL levels continue to decline, even partially reversing the effects of smoking on cholesterol after just 90 days.
Alcohol and LDL
While moderate consumption of alcohol can significantly increase HDL levels, studies have shown that it can also lower LDL cholesterol. Moderate consumption means one serving a day for women and one to two servings a day for men. (One serving is 12 ounces of beer or 5 ounces of wine.)
However, drinking more alcohol does not necessarily mean better results in terms of improving heart health. Research has also shown that drinking more than three alcoholic beverages a day can actually increase your chances of heart disease.
Get the word of drug information
With a few simple lifestyle changes, LDL cholesterol levels can be lowered.
However, depending on your current cholesterol level, these steps may not be enough. While these changes are recommended because they will affect your overall health, be sure to follow your doctor's recommendations for other high cholesterol treatments.
Use the Provider Discussion Guide below to start a conversation about the treatment that is right for you.
Cholesterol Healthcare Provider Discussion Guide
Get our printable guide to your next doctor's appointment to help you ask the right questions.