4 Ways to Lower Your Cholesterol

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Reducing our cholesterol is something that is part of good heart health as we age. However, aside from taking medication prescribed by our physicians, many of us don’t know how to lower our bad cholesterol. We compiled a list of a few easy things that anyone can do to get their cholesterol numbers more in line with what our doctors prefer to see. 

4 Ways to Lower Your Cholesterol

Increase Your Physical Activity to Lower Your Cholesterol

Exercising most days of the week and increasing your physical activity is a great and often underrated way to lower cholesterol

When we exercise, it can help raise our high-density lipoprotein, or HDL, cholesterol. This is the “good” form of cholesterol that is often talked about. 

sprinter

Ideally, you will want to exercise for 30 minutes, five times a week, or perform vigorous exercise for 20 minutes, at least three times a week. 

The reason that exercise helps our cholesterol is that when we increase our level of activity, our body can lose weight. When we lose weight, our cholesterol often changes. Even performing short intervals of exercise several times a day can help you to become more active and drop excess pounds. 

Physical activity that can be done throughout the day includes:

  • Taking a brisk walk during lunch hour
  • Taking the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Parking further away from the entrance of work and walking 
  • Riding your bike to work
  • Playing your favorite sport

Some find it helpful to join an exercise group or have an exercise buddy to help maintain consistency and keep you motivated. 

Change Your Diet

This seems to be a no brainer, however, just telling someone to eat better doesn’t always translate to good advice. There are some foods that are better to eat than others when it comes to our cholesterol and others that should definitely be avoided. 

Ideally, you will want to:

  • Reduce saturated fats found in red meat and full-fat dairy products. These both raise your total cholesterol which is the exact opposite of the goal. When you decrease the amount of saturated fats that we eat, our low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol can be reduced. LDL cholesterol is considered the bad cholesterol.
  • Eliminating trans fats is also something that should be done to lower your cholesterol. Trans fats aren’t necessarily spelled out on an ingredients list. Often they are listed as “partially hydrogenate vegetable oil.” If you see those words on a package of food, run away from it! Some examples of foods that are often filled with trans fats are margarine, cookies, cakes, and crackers.
  • Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. While the name sounds terrible, omega-3 fatty acids are good for us and help to lower both cholesterol and blood pressure. Some foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids are salmon, walnuts, and flaxseed.

Don’t Binge Drink Alcohol

red wine

Alcoholic beverages are always best in moderation. Aside from the damage alcohol can do to our liver, it can affect our heart and cholesterol. 

For healthy adults, moderate alcohol consumption means having one to two drinks a day for both men and women.

Quit Smoking

Health effects of tobacco

By now, everyone knows that smoking is just not good for us. However, if we are overweight and have high cholesterol, smoking can be even more dangerous for us. 

Statistics show that within 20 minutes of quitting smoking, our blood pressure and heart rate recover to a normal, healthy range. 

Within a year of quitting smoking, our risk of heart disease is cut in half of what it was previously. That is a big statement with substantial health benefits. 

If you have tried each of these tips and still can’t get your bad cholesterol lower, you should talk to your doctor and see if a low dose medication would be beneficial. While the use of statins has come under criticism, not using a cholesterol-lowering medicine may have detrimental implications that far outweigh the risk.   

Katherine Donnelly

    Katherine Donnelly

    A qualified doctor, Jane G. is someone who wears many hats, working also as a health writer, author, researcher, and media medic. She is a master communicator who is passionate about putting convoluted health information into words that make the information widely accessible. Her primary interests are child and adolescent health, women’s well-being, beauty, and nutrition.