If you have high cholesterol, you’re not alone.
In the United States, about 1 in 3 adults have high cholesterol, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (1)
Cholesterol is a type of fat that is found in your blood.
Too much cholesterol can build up on the inside of your arteries and make them narrower.
Because cholesterol has no symptoms, many individuals are unaware that their cholesterol levels are too high.
The only way to check cholesterol levels is through a blood test.
However, if your cholesterol levels are too high, don’t worry.
There are things that you can do to reduce your cholesterol quickly.
Here are six ways to reduce your cholesterol:
1. Exercise regularly
Regular exercise is one of the best ways to reduce cholesterol.
When you exercise, your heart muscle gets stronger.
A stronger heart muscle means that your heart doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood through your body.
Exercise also helps to increase the levels of HDL (good) cholesterol and decrease the levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol in your blood. (3)
The CDC recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity each week. (4)
Moderate-intensity activities include:
- Brisk walking (at a pace where you can still talk but not sing)
- Mowing the lawn
Vigorous-intensity activities include:
- Jogging or running
- Swimming laps
- Aerobic dancing
- Jumping rope
If you’re not used to exercising, start slowly and work your way up.
You can also talk to your doctor about what types and levels of activity are best for you.
2. Eat a healthy diet
Eating a healthy diet is another great way to reduce cholesterol.
Foods that are high in saturated fat and trans fat can raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. (5)
You should avoid or limit foods that contain these types of fats, such as:
- Whole milk
- Ice cream
- Baked goods (cookies, cakes, pies, pastries)
- Processed meats (bacon, sausage, hot dogs, lunch meats)
- Solid fats (lard, shortening)
On the other hand, there are some foods that can help to lower your cholesterol.
- Oats and oat bran
- Barley and barley bran
- Legumes (beans, peas, lentils)
- Nuts (almonds, walnuts, peanuts, pistachios)
- Seeds (flaxseed, pumpkin seeds)
- Vegetable oils (canola, olive, sunflower, corn)
- Fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines)
Eating these foods can help to reduce your LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase your HDL (good) cholesterol. (5)
You should also limit your intake of sugary drinks, such as soda and fruit juice.
If you’re not sure where to start, talk to a registered dietitian or nutritionist who can help you create a healthy eating plan.
3. Quit smoking
Smoking is one of the worst things that you can do for your heart.
Not only does smoking raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, but it also lowers your HDL (good) cholesterol levels. (7)
Smoking also damages the lining of your arteries, which can lead to a build-up of plaque.
Plaque is a sticky substance that contains cholesterol, fat, and calcium.
If plaque builds up in your arteries, it can make them narrower and harder for blood to flow through.
The good news is that you can start reversing the damage from smoking as soon as you quit.
Within a year of quitting smoking, your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels will start to drop and your HDL (good) cholesterol levels will start to rise. (8)
Your risk of heart disease will also begin to decrease.
If you’re struggling to quit smoking, there are many resources available to help you, such as:
- Support groups
- Telephone quitlines
4. Lose weight
If you’re overweight or obese, losing weight can help to reduce your cholesterol levels.
Extra weight can increase your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and decrease your HDL (good) cholesterol levels. (9)
Losing just a few pounds can make a big difference in your cholesterol levels.
In fact, for every pound that you lose, your HDL (good) cholesterol levels will increase.
For example, in one study, individuals who lost at least 10 % of their body weight saw significantly reduced LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and increased HDL (good) cholesterol levels. (11)
If you’re not sure how to lose weight, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian to help you create a weight loss plan that’s right for you.
If you’re struggling to lose weight on your own, learn how to lose weight.
5. Limit alcohol intake
Drinking alcohol in moderation can actually help to raise your HDL (good) cholesterol levels. (12)
However, drinking too much alcohol can have the opposite effect and cause your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels to rise. (13)
It can also lead to weight gain, which can further increase your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
For most people, moderate alcohol intake is defined as:
- Two drinks per day for men
- One drink per day for women
If you currently drink more than the recommended amount of alcohol, talk to your doctor about ways to cut back.
It’s important to note that you should never start drinking alcohol for the sake of your heart health.
If you don’t currently drink alcohol, there’s no need to start.
6. Take the cholesterol-lowering medication prescribed by your doctor
If lifestyle changes alone aren’t enough to lower your cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medication.
There are several different types of cholesterol-lowering medications available.
Some of the most common include:
- Bile acid sequestrants
- Nicotinic acid (niacin)
- Fibric acid derivatives
- Cholesterol absorption inhibitors
It’s important to take the medication prescribed by your doctor and to never stop taking it without first talking to your doctor.
If you have any questions or concerns about your medication, be sure to discuss them with your doctor.
Making lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet and quitting smoking, can help to reduce your cholesterol levels.
Also, be sure to talk to your doctor about any questions or concerns you have about your cholesterol levels.
Your doctor can help you create a treatment plan that’s right for you.