Cholesterol can be lowered with permanent lifestyle changes that include a healthy diet and increased physical activity and, if needed, medications. Your own cholesterol "target" treatment level is based on your other risk factors for heart disease. For example, if you also have diabetes or high blood pressure, your doctor may try to help you achieve a target LDL cholesterol level even below 100 mg/dL.
Your blood cholesterol is affected by your diet, weight and physical activity. By making positive changes in these areas you can lower your cholesterol and your risk of heart disease. Some steps that you can take include:
- Reduce the amount of saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol in your diet. This can be done by opting for more fruits, vegetables, lean meats and whole grains and avoiding pre-packaged meals. Cholesterol comes in meats, egg yolks and dairy products. Saturated fats come in things like whole milk, butter, ice cream, meat, palm oil and coconut oil. Trans fats are man-made vegetable oils (hydrogenated oils) used in many cookies, crackers, and french fries. (Healthier oils include: olive, peanut, and canola oils).
- Get just 30 minutes a day of exercise – brisk walking, biking, running, swimming, etc. This can lower many risk factors for heart disease, including high cholesterol.
- Achieve an ideal body weight. Often this can be done through diet and exercise.
- Quit smoking
Cholesterol medications are prescribed to reduce low density lipoproteins (LDL) known as the "bad" cholesterol. The most commonly prescribed medications include: statins, bile-acid resins (sequestrants), cholesterol absorption inhibitors, or combination agents. As needed, other medications for patients with atherosclerosis may be prescribed to reduce blood pressure (e.g., beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, diuretics); control blood sugar (e.g., anti-diabetic medications); prevent clots (e.g., aspirin); or assist with stopping smoking.