Find a Doctor Find a Doctor
Time to see a specialist? Time to see a specialist?
We found [COUNT] Specialists
who treat [INTEREST]
We found [COUNT] Specialists
who treat [INTEREST]
[TELEHEALTH] offer Telehealth options.
Your Guide to Lowering High Cholesterol

This content is created by Healthgrades and brought to you by an advertising sponsor. More

This content is created or selected by the Healthgrades editorial team and is funded by an advertising sponsor. The content is subject to the Healthgrades medical review process for accuracy, balance and objectivity. The content is not edited or otherwise influenced by the advertisers appearing on this page except with the possible suggestion of the broad topic area. For more information, read the Healthgrades advertising policy.

Managing High Cholesterol Day to Day

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Was this helpful?
Rear view of children and father washing dishes at kitchen sink

More than 100 million people in the United States have high cholesterol—that’s nearly a third of the population. High cholesterol increases the risk of heart attack and stroke, so it’s important to keep it in check. Watching what you eat, getting enough exercise, kicking bad habits, and sticking to your treatment plan can all help.

Finding the Right Diet for High Cholesterol

The body needs cholesterol to build cells and make hormones, including vitamins. However, the liver produces all the cholesterol we need. We don’t need to get more cholesterol through food. Doctors typically recommend a diet low in fat and high in fiber for those who have high cholesterol. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Reduce or cut out animal products from your diet, since they’re the only foods that contain cholesterol
  • Avoid red meat and full-dairy milk, which are high in saturated fats
  • Avoid margarine and pre-packaged snacks, which can be high in trans fats
  • Eat high-fiber foods that fight cholesterol absorption in your blood, like oatmeal, apples, Brussels sprouts, and kidney beans

Your doctor may suggest a diet called DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), which has been proven to lower cholesterol. It includes:

  • Plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy
  • Foods low in saturated fat and sugar

Ask your doctor to add a registered dietitian to your healthcare team to help you create a daily diet plan. While a high cholesterol diet can seem limiting at first, there are plenty of delicious foods you can eat without harming your heart. You’ll likely find new favorites.

Exercising to Reduce High Cholesterol

Exercise helps lower high cholesterol by raising the level of “good cholesterol” in the body, called high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Good cholesterol fights the “bad cholesterol,” or low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, that is of concern. Your doctor will probably suggest building up to 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. Examples of moderate exercise are brisk walking, cycling, and swimming.

Always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Once you have the green light, these tips can help you stick with it:

  • Choose an exercise, sport, or fitness class you enjoy
  • Set a consistent daily routine for exercising
  • Wear comfortable clothes and stay hydrated
  • Ask your friends and family to exercise with you or cheer you on to stay motivated

Exercise also helps you maintain a healthy weight, which improves your heart health and reduces your risk of heart disease.

Lowering High Cholesterol With Lifestyle Changes

Quitting smoking and drinking only in moderation are heart-healthy choices, even for those who don’t have high cholesterol. For those who do, research has shown benefits mainly related to increases in good cholesterol.

Within a year of quitting smoking, the risk of heart disease is cut in half. Quitting isn’t easy, but many effective smoking cessation programs are available. If you smoke, tell your doctor why you’re worried about quitting, from nicotine cravings to mood swings to weight gain, so your quit plan can be personalized accordingly.

Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure and strain your heart to the point of heart failure. Drinking only in moderation is recommended. That means up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men.

Treating High Cholesterol With Medication

Some people need medication to help manage their cholesterol day to day. To determine if medication is appropriate for you, your doctor will take these factors into consideration:

  • How high your cholesterol is
  • Whether high cholesterol runs in your family
  • Blood levels of inflammatory markers like CRP (C-reactive protein)
  • Your risk of heart disease and stroke
  • Your cardiovascular medical history
  • Other conditions you’re managing, such as diabetes

Take medication for high cholesterol every day as prescribed and tell your doctor about any side effects you experience.

Managing high cholesterol is a series of day-to-day decisions that will get easier over time. Set goals with your doctor and follow through to get healthier and feel happier as you’re living with high cholesterol and working to lower it.

Was this helpful?
Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Feb 26
View All Your Guide to Lowering High Cholesterol Articles
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. Cholesterol-lowering Medicine. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  2. September Is National Cholesterol Education Month. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.,high%20risk%20for%20heart%20disease.
  3. U.S. and World Population Clock. United States Census Bureau.
  4. What Is Cholesterol? American Heart Association.
  5. Top 5 lifestyle changes to improve your cholesterol. Mayo Clinic.
  6. How to Lover Cholesterol with Diet. U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  7. Cholesterol Guide: Exercise Tips. Cleveland Clinic.
  8. Effects of Smoking and Smoking Cessation on Lipids and Lipoproteins: Outcomes from a Randomized Clinical Trial. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.
  9. Smoking Hypertension and High Cholesterol are Common in Young Adults Suffering First Heart Attack. American College of Cardiology.
  10. Facts about alcohol and heart health. Harvard Medical School.