How can I lower my cholesterol?

Julie Bolick
Cholesterol Management Specialist
For a total LDL reduction of 20-30%, the NHLBI's Therapeutic Lifestyle Approach to LDL reduction includes:
  1. Diet: decreasing saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol and adding plant stanols and sterols and soluble fiber
  2. Physical activity: 30 minutes moderate-intensity activity on most days of the week
  3. Weight management: lose 10# if overweight
Dr. Suzanne R. Steinbaum, DO
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Lowering cholesterol levels is key to maintaining heart health; eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly are the first steps, then medication, if needed. Watch cardiologist Suzanne Steinbaum, DO, discuss the best ways to lower your cholesterol.

Dr. Marcus J. Cox, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Cholesterol levels can be managed by diet, exercise, and by medical management. It is also important to avoid saturated fats. Eating more fiber, fruits, vegetables as well as incorporating fish oil supplements can be very effective in reducing cholesterol. Moderate consumption of alcohol and quitting smoking also has positive effects on cholesterol numbers.

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. Dean G. Karalis, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

In patients at risk for heart disease, lowering high cholesterol can prevent cardiovascular disease and improve outcomes. High cholesterol can be lowered with diet and exercise or with medication. Your physician may decide to put you on medication to lower your cholesterol if your cholesterol does not fall into the desired range with lifestyle changes alone. However, even if you require medication to lower your cholesterol it is important to follow a healthy diet and exercise to reduce you overall risk of heart disease.

Joel Harper - Elite Trainer
Fitness Specialist

To lower your cholesterol try these things:

  1. My favorite is using olive oil
  2. Increase the your intake of omega
  3. Eat fatty acids—I love salmon and sardines
  4. Eat high fiber foods—my favorite is oatmeal with a banana, cinnamon and raisins
  5. Eat nuts—I soak my almonds in a jigger in the fridge, so I always see them and it breaks them down, pistachios, walnuts and pecans to name a few.
To lower your cholesterol levels eat less fatty/greasy/oily foods, eat more fiber and engage in regular exercise.

There are a number of ways that you can lower your cholesterol:

  • Know your cholesterol numbers
  • Limit your saturated fat and trans fat intake
  • Opt for healthy monounsaturated fats (MUFAs)
  • Include omega-3 fatty acids in your diet
  • Aim for 25-30 grams of fiber per day
  • Exercise regularly: Aim for 200 to 300 minutes each week
  • Lose excess weight
  • Make healthier lifestyle choices. For example, avoid smoking and drinking excess alcohol. Always compare food labels when shopping—pick foods low in saturated and trans fats.
Ms. Ashley Koff, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist
Clear scientific data shows that lowering cholesterol and maintaining appropriate cholesterol levels begins with a healthy diet (with a good balance of omega 3:omega 6 fatty acids; a reduction of sugar; an increase in vegetables and legumes; and an avoidance of chemicals), may layer on dietary supplements, and even may require a medication. It includes looking at your digestive system -- is your food getting where it should and is waste being eliminated regularly? And finally, it takes sleep, relaxation, activity and behavior modifications.

Managing cholesterol levels isn’t just about avoiding unhealthy foods; it’s also about maintaining a fiber—and nutrient—rich diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, particularly those shown to have LDL (bad cholesterol)-lowering properties.

Fiber - Scores of studies show that fiber helps lower LDL and also link it to a significant reduction in coronary heart disease (CHD) risk. Most fiber-rich foods contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, both of which you need, so the following are only loosely categorized.

  • Soluble fiber (also known as beta-glucan) lowers cholesterol and increases the feeling of fullness. Top soluble fiber sources include fruits, oats, wild rice, quinoa and other whole grains.
  • Insoluble fiber helps keep blood cholesterol in check and prevents plaque buildup on artery walls. Top insoluble fiber sources include all kinds of beans, peas, lentils and artichokes.

​Antioxidants - Antioxidants help prevent the oxidation of LDL, keeping it from clogging the arteries and thus reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

  • Vitamin C is a potent, water-soluble antioxidant. Top vitamin C sources include pineapples, kiwis, red bell peppers and broccoli.
  • Anthocyanins and carotenoids, the free radical–fighting pigments found in colorful produce, have been shown to help prevent the oxidation of LDL and improve the elasticity of blood vessels. Top anthocyanin and carotenoid sources include blueberries, tomatoes, grapes and cantaloupes.
  • Betanin is the antioxidant pigment that gives beets their rich red color. Top betanin sources include beets and Swiss chard.

Note: Beets are also a good source of folate, which helps lower homocysteine levels in the blood (high levels of homocysteine are linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease).

Healthy Fats - When used in place of saturated fat, monounsaturated fats help keep cholesterol levels in a healthy range. Top sources of healthy fats include nuts, avocados and olive oil.

There are three ways you can lower your lousy cholesterol: food choices, lifestyle choices, and medications.

There are 5 foods that can lower your cholesterol.

  1. Oatmeal, oat bran, and high-fiber foods, including kidney beans, apples, pears, barley, and prunes. Soluble fiber reduces your low-density lipoprotein (LDL). Young Dr. Oz and I both use psyllium fiber in our morning drinks.
  2. The omega-3 fatty acid DHA found in fish oil and where the fish get it: algae. Supplements from algae reduce your LDL cholesterol and your triglycerides and increase your healthy HDL cholesterol--a triple benefit.
  3. Walnuts, almonds, and other nuts. These are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids; walnuts also help keep blood vessels healthy. All nuts are high in calories, so only a handful a day is recommended.
  4. Avoid the five Food Felons--saturated or four-legged animal fat, trans fats, added sugar, syrups, and any grain but 100% whole grains.
  5. Foods rich in niacin and pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) decrease LDL cholesterol.

A key is smaller portions and fewer calories. So make those changes in diet and a few lifestyle changes like exercise on most days of the week. Some people can only be helped with medication.

Dominique Adair
Fitness Specialist

Diseases of the heart and vascular system remain the major cause of morbidity and mortality in the developed world.  The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) recommends for optimal outcome that total cholesterol not exceed 200mg/dL; LDL (“bad”) cholesterol not exceed 100mg/dL; and HDL (“good”) cholesterol be equal to or greater than 60mg/dL. However, there are many other contributions to the development of heart disease including smoking, weight, gender, health history and family healthy history. To lower your "bad" cholesterol, it is important to limit saturated fats which come mostly from animal sources, and trans-fats (hydrogenated) fats, which are produced by the food industry. Both of these fats can be found on the food label. It is also important to eat fish, flax seeds, nuts, and tofu several times a week (or take an Omega-3 supplement), and eat foods high in fiber including whole grains like oatmeal, as well as whole fruits and vegetables. Regular, moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise may also help raise your HDL (good) cholesterol. 

Stay tuned for news of more advanced testing which can further assess heart disease risk. Half of the patients with coronary artery disease in the United States have blood cholesterol levels similar to those people who have not developed the disease.

If you have high cholesterol, follow these tips:

  • Change your eating habits - Limit cholesterol and saturated fat in your daily diet.
  • Get more exercise -  Increasing your physical activity can also help balance cholesterol levels and keep your arteries clear.
  • Take medications as prescribed - If you can't lower your cholesterol with diet and exercise alone, your doctor might prescribe medication to help. For example, statins are commonly used cholesterol medications.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)
The cholesterol to watch for heart disease is your LDL cholesterol. Learn ways to lower your cholesterol in this video with Dr. Oz.

Continue Learning about High Cholesterol

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.