4 Simple Tips to Lower LDL Cholesterol

It’s not called “bad cholesterol” for no reason.

Untreated high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) can put you at risk for heart disease and stroke if it gets stuck in your arteries and turns into plaque. 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.

Many cholesterol medications can lower LDL levels. But your healthcare provider may recommend that you try therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLCs) to see how low your LDL can go before putting you on medication. Whether you’re trying to lower your LDL or prevent it from increasing, following a few tips can help you keep it within a healthy range.

This article explains how following a sensible diet, losing extra pounds, exercising regularly, quitting smoking, and drinking alcohol in moderation can put “bad cholesterol” in its place.

Watch your diet and lose weight

Being overweight or obese not only puts you at risk for high LDL levels, but it can also lead to heart disease and other chronic diseases. Research shows that losing even a small amount of weight (less than 5 pounds) may help lower your LDL levels.

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Eating right can also help your heart health. Foods rich in soluble fiber and plant sterols, as well as healthy fats like olive oil, have been found to help lower LDL cholesterol.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute states that you can lower your LDL by 20 to 30 percent with a few simple changes:

  • Allowing less than 7% of calories from saturated fat can reduce LDL by 8% to 10%.
  • Reducing your daily cholesterol intake to less than 200 mg can lower your LDL by 5 to 8 percent.
  • Losing 10 pounds can reduce LDL by 5 to 8 percent.
  • Adding 5 to 10 grams of soluble fiber per day can lower LDL by 3 to 5 percent.
  • Adding 2 grams of phytosterols per day can lower LDL by 5% to 15%.

It’s possible that LDL cholesterol will eventually return to its original level, even if you lose weight and keep it off. Still, these benefits make weight maintenance and good nutrition worth pursuing.

increase physical activity

Not only is exercise good for weight loss, but moderate exercise may also help lower your LDL cholesterol. Aerobic exercise, such as running, cycling, jogging, and swimming, appears to have the greatest potential to lower LDL while reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

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Other forms of exercise, such as yoga, walking, and weight-bearing exercise, have been shown to moderately lower LDL levels. However, these activities have not been studied to the same extent as aerobic exercise.

Cholesterol-Lowering Snacks

stop smoking

Smoking is associated with higher cholesterol levels and the formation of a damaging low-density lipoprotein called oxidized low-density lipoprotein, which can lead to atherosclerosis.

Research shows that once you stop smoking, cholesterol levels drop. LDL levels dropped even more each month after quitting smoking. The effects of smoking on cholesterol were even reversed after 90 days.

How smoking affects your cholesterol and your heart

drinking in moderation

Research shows that while “moderate” alcohol consumption can raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels, it can also lower LDL. The “good” HDL absorbs cholesterol and brings it back to the liver, which then excretes it out of the body.

Moderate consumption means one serving per day for women and one or two servings per day for men. (One serving is 12 ounces of beer or 5 ounces of wine.) However, drinking more alcohol doesn’t necessarily equal better results when it comes to improving heart health. Research also shows that drinking more than three alcoholic beverages a day can actually increase your chances of developing heart disease.

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When and How to Lower Cholesterol Without Prescription Drugs

generalize

Medications aren’t the only way to lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels. Eating right, losing weight, exercising, quitting smoking, and drinking alcohol in moderation can lower your “bad cholesterol” levels. Doctors tend to focus on LDL because if they build up in your arteries, they put you at risk for heart disease and stroke.

VigorTip words

While you may be hopeful about lowering your LDL levels, remember your baseline or your starting point. In other words, while these proactive measures may make a difference, they are not enough. Be sure to follow your healthcare provider’s advice on the best way to treat high cholesterol.

See below for a guide to discussions with healthcare providers to help start the conversation.