Discover the Best Ways to Lower Your Cholesterol Levels

Female doctor consulting with high cholesterol patient

High cholesterol poses a significant health risk worldwide, contributing to heart disease and stroke. Understanding cholesterol, its impact on health, and practical strategies for managing it through lifestyle changes, dietary adjustments, and medications can empower individuals to take control of their cardiovascular health.

An Overview of Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a fatty substance crucial for building cells and producing certain hormones. It circulates in the blood in lipoproteins, particles that carry cholesterol through the bloodstream. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is known as "bad" cholesterol because it can build up in the walls of arteries, forming plaque that narrows and stiffens them, a condition called atherosclerosis. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is considered "good" cholesterol because it helps remove LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream, transporting it to the liver for excretion or recycling. When LDL cholesterol levels are high or HDL cholesterol levels are low, it increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as coronary artery disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Also Read: Cholesterol Demystified: What You Need to Know Now

Significant Symptoms of High Cholesterol

High cholesterol typically doesnt cause symptoms until it leads to serious health problems such as a heart attack or stroke. Routine blood tests are essential for detecting high cholesterol levels. In some cases, visible signs like xanthomas (fatty deposits under the skin) may indicate highly high cholesterol levels.

Outlining Causes of High Cholesterol

  1. Unhealthy Diet: Diets high in saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol-rich foods (like red meat and full-fat dairy products) can increase LDL cholesterol levels.
  2. Lack of Physical Activity: Regular exercise helps boost HDL cholesterol levels and lower LDL cholesterol.
  3. Obesity: Excess weight, especially around the waist, can increase LDL cholesterol and decrease HDL cholesterol.
  4. Smoking: Tobacco smoke damages the walls of blood vessels, making them more susceptible to accumulating fatty deposits.
  5. Genetics: Family history plays a significant role in determining cholesterol levels. Some people inherit genes that cause high cholesterol levels despite a healthy lifestyle.

High Cholesterol Diagnostic Tests

  1. Total cholesterol: The overall amount of cholesterol in your blood, including LDL and HDL.
  2. LDL cholesterol: The amount of "bad" cholesterol that can build up in the arteries.
  3. HDL cholesterol: The amount of "good" cholesterol that helps remove LDL cholesterol from the arteries.
  4. Triglycerides: Another type of fat in the blood can contribute to cardiovascular disease risk.

Various Cholesterol Levels

  1. Total cholesterol: Less than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)
  2. LDL cholesterol: Less than 100 mg/dL is optimal; however, less than 70 mg/dL may be recommended for those at higher risk.
  3. HDL cholesterol: Higher than 60 mg/dL is protective against heart disease.
  4. Triglycerides: Less than 150 mg/dL is considered normal.

Learn How to Lower Your Cholesterol

Lower Cholesterol

Lifestyle Changes

Monounsaturated fats are known for their heart-healthy benefits. Sources include olive oil, avocados, and nuts like almonds, peanuts, and cashews. Incorporating these into your diet in place of saturated and trans fats can help lower LDL cholesterol levels without affecting HDL cholesterol.

Polyunsaturated fats, including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, are essential for overall health and beneficial for heart health. Foods rich in polyunsaturated fats include fatty fish (salmon, trout, and mackerel), flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. Avoid trans fats, artificially created fats commonly found in processed and fried foods, baked goods, and margarine. They raise LDL cholesterol levels and lower HDL cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Learn More: Choosing The Perfect Food: How To Maintain A Balanced Diet

Increase Soluble Fiber

Fiber, especially soluble fiber, can help lower cholesterol levels by reducing cholesterol absorption into the bloodstream. These are rich in beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber that has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol levels. Beans, peas, lentils, and chickpeas are excellent sources of soluble fiber and can be easily incorporated into soups, salads, and main dishes. Apples, citrus fruits, berries, carrots, and Brussels sprouts are high in soluble fiber and provide essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Whole grains like barley, quinoa, and brown rice contain soluble and insoluble fiber, promoting overall digestive health and helping manage cholesterol levels.

Exercise Regularly

two women walking in the park after exercise

Activities such as brisk walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, and dancing can help raise HDL cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol) and lower LDL cholesterol levels. Resistance exercises, such as weightlifting and bodyweight, can help increase muscle mass and overall metabolism, improving cholesterol management. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity. Breaking this into smaller weekly sessions can make it more manageable and sustainable.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Excess body weight, especially around the waistline, is associated with higher LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol levels. Losing even a small amount of weight can help improve your cholesterol profile and reduce the risk of heart disease. To lose weight, focus on consuming fewer calories than you expend through physical activity and daily living. Please pay attention to portion sizes and avoid overeating, especially when it comes to high-calorie and high-fat foods. Choose foods rich in nutrients but lower in calories, such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.

Quit Smoking

Quit Smoking

Smoking damages blood vessels and increases the buildup of fatty deposits (plaque) in arteries. It also lowers HDL cholesterol levels, making it harder for your body to remove LDL cholesterol from your blood. To quit smoking successfully, seek help from healthcare professionals, counselors, or support groups. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), like nicotine gum, patches, lozenges, and prescription medications, can help manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings during the quitting process.

Moderate alcohol consumption may have cardiovascular benefits, such as raising HDL cholesterol levels. However, excessive alcohol intake can lead to high blood pressure, heart failure, and liver disease, outweighing any potential benefits. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For most adults, this means up to one drink per day for women and two for men.


man taking pill for lowering LDL cholesterol levels

Sometimes, lifestyle changes alone may not be sufficient to manage cholesterol levels. Statins are the most commonly prescribed medications for lowering LDL cholesterol levels. They work by blocking a substance your liver needs to make cholesterol and helping your liver remove LDL cholesterol from your blood. Bile acid sequestrants bind bile acids in your intestines, preventing them from being reabsorbed into your bloodstream. 

This reduces cholesterol levels because your liver needs cholesterol to make more bile acids. Cholesterol absorption inhibitors are medications that reduce cholesterol absorption from your diet, helping to lower your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels. PCSK9 inhibitors are a newer class of drugs that help lower LDL cholesterol levels by increasing the liver's ability to remove LDL cholesterol from your bloodstream.


Managing cholesterol levels is crucial for reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Individuals can significantly lower their cholesterol levels by adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding smoking. For some, medications may be necessary to achieve target cholesterol levels and reduce cardiovascular risk effectively. Taking proactive steps today can lead to a healthier tomorrow, free from the burdens of high cholesterol and its associated risks.

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How do we know the body has high cholesterol?

High cholesterol often has no symptoms, so a blood test is necessary to measure cholesterol levels.

What is the correct way to measure cholesterol?

Cholesterol levels are measured through a lipid panel blood test, which includes total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.

How many times do I get my cholesterol tested?

Guidelines recommend regular cholesterol screening every 4 to 6 years for adults over 20. Individuals with risk factors for heart disease or those already diagnosed with high cholesterol may need more frequent testing.

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