How can I lower my cholesterol without taking medicine?

Dr. Kevin J. Soden, MD
Family Medicine
We all need a certain amount of cholesterol to help our cells to function properly and it’s the primary reason our bodies make about 80 percent of the cholesterol in our blood. High cholesterol can mean different things to different people and is really a catchall term often used inappropriately. Doctors need to be specific when talking about cholesterol. Does your doctor mean high “total” cholesterol, high triglycerides, low HDL (high density lipoprotein) cholesterol (the good one cholesterol) or high LDL (the bad cholesterol or low density lipoprotein)? High cholesterol can be one of these problems or a combination of all these things so it’s important to know what your specific problem is so that treatment can be individualized.

The reason for treating hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol) is to lower your risk of heart disease as it’s believed that cholesterol plaques are one of the causes for blockages in your arteries. Some people have elevated cholesterol levels because of their particular genetics and this is known as familial hypercholesterolemia or high cholesterol. This will often require a much more aggressive approach to lowering cholesterol and should be monitored closely.

Here are some of the best ways I’ve found to improve or lower your cholesterol:
  • Eat smaller portions of food as it lowers the amount of saturated fat we ingest.
  • Load up on fruits and vegetables by eating 5-9 servings a day. It will reduce the amount of fatty foods in your diet.
  • Increase the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in your body by eating more fish or by taking supplements containing omega-3s.
  • Use “good” fats -- olive, canola or safflower when cooking or eating.
  • Use whole grains -- beans, whole wheat and brown rice -- and avoid foods that are white -- white bread, white rice and potatoes.
  • Exercise 30 minutes a day at least five times a week as this helps to lower the bad or LDL cholesterol and increase the good or HDL cholesterol.
  • Enjoy a glass of red wine with dinner.
  • Stay away from all processed foods and foods containing saturated fats.
Prevention is very important so take steps now to improve your health. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, your doctor believes your cholesterol is still too high. In those cases, using OTC or prescription medicines is appropriate and can help to lower your risk of heart attack or coronary heart disease.
Merle Myerson, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Cardiovascular specialist Dr. Merle Myerson explains the best ways to lower cholesterol without taking medications. Watch Dr. Myerson's video for important tips and information about heart health.
Marcus J. Cox, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Cholesterol levels can be very sensitive to diet and exercise.

The contents of this website are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Nor does the contents of this website constitute the establishment of a physician patient or therapeutic relationship. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Here are some things you can do to keep your cholesterol in check without medications:
  • Exercise: It not only lowers your bad cholesterol, exercise also increases your good cholesterol. Try exercising for at least 30 minutes three times a week. If you don’t have time to set aside, take the stairs instead of the elevator or take longer walks to work or between errands.
  • Eat more fiber: Oats, beans, okra, and barley are rich in soluble fiber, which helps your body eliminate cholesterol. How about starting your day with a bowl of old-fashioned oats? If you choose cold oat cereals, top them with soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, or another nondairy milk.
  • Try red yeast rice: Around 800 AD in China, it was found that the red yeast cultivated on rice produced healthy compounds. But it was not discovered for another 1,200 years that this compound is actually lovastatin -- the same compound marketed as the cholesterol-lowering prescription drug Mevacor. The compound works to reduce cholesterol production in the liver.

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Jill A. Grimes, MD
Family Medicine
Eating a high-fiber diet may lower your cholesterol enough so you won't need cholesterol-lowering medications (statins). This is specially true if it is your triglycerides (the smallest breakdown product of fat) that are really high. Eating a diet with more than 25 grams of fiber per day will often lower lipid levels to the goal range. How do you get more fiber in your diet? Eat more fruits and vegetables, plus some extra sources of high fiber such as beans, nuts, more berries, or high-fiber cereals such as Fiber One or Bran Buds.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.