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How is high cholesterol treated?

Dr. Jennifer N. Caudle, DO
Family Practitioner

High cholesterol can be treated with medications that work through the liver or the stomach, but a low-cholesterol diet and exercise are also important. Watch as family medicine physician Jennifer Caudle, DO, discusses these treatment options.

Julie Bolick
Cholesterol Management Specialist

High cholesterol is treated with a therapeutic lifestyle approach that includes diet, exercise and weight management. Diet includes reducing saturated fats in high fat meats (fast food and restaurant hamburgers, bacon, sausage, hot dogs, rib eye, and prime), eliminating trans fats (in stick margarine, vegetable shortening, deep-fried foods and commercial baked goods like pies, cakes, cookies and brownies) and adding unsaturated fats (in oils, olives, nuts, seeds, peanuts, avocado, and soluble fiber in oats, psyllium seeds and husks, citrus fruits, brussel sprouts, pears, plums, and legumes like cooked or dried beans). Exercise includes at least 30 minutes on most days that combines both aerobic and strength training. Weight management includes maintaining a healthy body weight or reducing/increasing caloric intake along with exercise to arrive at a healthy body weight.

As the other panelists have suggested, cholesterol can be treated with lifestyle changes (diet, exercise, weight loss), supplements (plant stanols/sterols, omega 3s, nuts, fiber, etc.), medications, or often a combination of all three interventions. The specific treatment depends on the type of cholesterol problem (e.g., problem with LDL, triglycerides, or HDL) and other patient characteristics.

Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Diet is the first line of defense to reduce high blood cholesterol levels.

Decreasing the saturated  in your diet as well has increasing the fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and leaner meats, skinless poultry, and fish can all help reduce high blood cholesterol levels. Food sources of saturated fat include full fat dairy products such as whole milk, cheese and ice cream as well as the fat on fatty cuts of meat.

Fruits, veggies, and whole grains are naturally low in heart unhealthy saturated fat. Use low fat dairy products to avoid too much saturated fat in your diet.

Depending on your medical history and blood-lipid profile, your treatment plan for high cholesterol may include:

  • Losing weight if you're overweight
  • Quitting smoking if you smoke
  • Eating a healthier diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Taking cholesterol-controlling medication

The safest and cheapest way to treat high cholesterol is to change your diet, increase physical activity, and, if necessary, lose weight. Many people will also find cholesterol-lowering medication necessary.

If you have risk factors for coronary disease, statins are the best treatment for high cholesterol. Diet changes are best for low-risk populations.

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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.