Preventive health

4 ways that may help lower your cholesterol in 30 days

Women smiling and walking

Cholesterol is a fatty, waxy substance that your liver makes. The cholesterol in your blood comes from the food you eat and your liver. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, cholesterol is important because it helps your body make cell membranes, hormones and vitamin D.1 However, keep in mind that there are 2 types of cholesterol. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes them as:2

  • LDL (low-density lipoprotein), sometimes called “bad” cholesterol, makes up most of your body’s cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol can raise your risk for heart disease and stroke.
  • HDL (high-density lipoprotein), or “good” cholesterol, absorbs cholesterol and carries it back to the liver, which then flushes it from the body. High levels of HDL cholesterol can lower your risk for heart disease and stroke.

Since February is American Heart Month, now is a good time to learn about how to lower your LDL and raise your HDL. Here’s a look at how you can do that:

Week 1: Learn about some tweaks to your diet

Reducing the amount of saturated fats (red meat and full-fat dairy products) and trans fats (store-bought cookies, crackers and cakes) in your diet may help reduce the "bad" cholesterol.

But what should you eat instead? Harvard Health Publishing recommends adding these food items to your diet, which have been proven to lower cholesterol: oats, barley, beans, eggplant, walnuts, apples and salmon.3

Adapting to a new diet may be challenging. You can start slowly by buying 1 cholesterol-lowering food item at the grocery store each week. Then invite family members to experiment with new recipes. And talking to a dietician to learn how to maintain your nutritional goals may provide extra support.

Week 2: Get moving

The American Heart Association recommends getting 20 minutes of aerobic exercise each day.4 Spending time biking, swimming and even just walking are examples of activities that not only help improve your cholesterol levels but may help you shed a few extra pounds. Exercise is important because it may increase the "good" cholesterol.

Here are 3 ways to help stay motivated with your exercise routine:

  • Ask a friend or family member to be your exercise buddy.
  • Keep track of your activity on paper or an exercise app on your phone.
  • Listen to music or your favorite podcast when you’re exercising.

Week 3: Quit smoking

If you need another reason to quit smoking—here it is: Snuffing out that cigarette will improve your “good” cholesterol. Did you know that within 20 minutes of quitting, your blood pressure and heart rate recover? And within 3 months of quitting, your lung function and blood circulation will improve, according to Mayo Clinic.5

We know that quitting isn’t easy. Getting support can be helpful. That’s why all states have quit lines with counselors who are trained specifically to help you quit. Call 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669) to talk to someone today.

Week 4: Talk to your healthcare provider

In addition to making lifestyle changes, your healthcare provider might prescribe medicine to help lower your cholesterol levels. Your healthcare provider will discuss your options and help you find which medicine will work best for you.

According to the CDC, your healthcare provider may prescribe medicine if:6

  • You have already had a heart attack or stroke, or you have peripheral arterial disease.
  • Your LDL cholesterol level is 190 mg/dL or higher.
  • You are 40–75 years old with diabetes and an LDL cholesterol level of 70 mg/dL or higher.
  • You are 40–75 years old with a high risk of developing heart disease or stroke and an LDL cholesterol level of 70 mg/dL or higher.

Even small changes can make a big difference and become new habits that help you achieve your health goals.

 

Sources

  1. “Cholesterol in the Blood,” Johns Hopkins Medicine, last accessed November 12, 2021, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/high-cholesterol/cholesterol-in-the-blood.
  2. “LDL and HDL Cholesterol: ‘Bad’ and ‘Good’ Cholesterol,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” last accessed November 12, 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/ldl_hdl.htm.
  3. “11 foods that lower cholesterol,” Harvard Health Publishing, last accessed November 12, 2021, https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/11-foods-that-lower-cholesterol.
  4. “How much physical activity do you need?” American Heart Association, last accessed November 12, 2021, https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-infographic.
  5. “Top 5 lifestyle changes to improve your cholesterol,” Mayo Clinic, last accessed November 12, 2021, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/reduce-cholesterol/art-20045935.
  6. “Cholesterol-lowering Medicine,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” last accessed November 12, 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/treating_cholesterol.htm.