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Lower Your Cholesterol, Save Your Heart

  • Reviewed By: Robert J. Bryg, MD
Reviewed on 5/3/2016

Simple Ways to Lower Cholesterol

Red raspberries arranged in the shape of a heart.

When you are found to have a high blood level of cholesterol, it can be very helpful to change your diet and lifestyle to lower cholesterol. Lowering cholesterol has been shown to decrease the risk of heart disease. Even if you are taking a medication to lower your cholesterol levels, diet and exercise in addition can lead to optimal heart and blood vessel health. The following tips can be simple ways to help you to stay healthy.

Good and Bad Cholesterol

A breakfast plate of fried eggs, bacon, and toast.

Actually, some cholesterol is necessary for proper body function. But dietary saturated fat and cholesterol both raise levels of LDL "bad" cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol can cause plaque to build up in arteries, leading to heart disease and stroke. HDL is a "good" cholesterol in that it helps eliminate bad cholesterol from your blood. It is possible to lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol with your diet.

Portion Control: Use Your Hand

A handful of pistachios.

Eating super-sized meals contributes to weight gain and high cholesterol. An easy way to practice portion control for a meal is to use your hand as a measuring instrument for portions. One handful is about the size of one portion.

Serve Up Heart-Healthy Food

Produce at a market.

When it comes to fruits and vegetables, pick up the pace! Multiple servings throughout the day can help lower LDL "bad" cholesterol. Moreover, these foods have antioxidants that can be beneficial. Also, eating more vegetables and fruits often results in eating fewer high-fat foods. This can lower blood pressure promote weight loss.

Think Fish For Heart Health

Fresh salmon steaks.

Fish is generally exceptionally heart healthy because it is high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids and low in saturated fat. It is the omega-3 fatty acids that help lower blood levels of triglycerides. Especially emphasize fatty fish. Keep in mind that deep oil frying of any food diminishes the health benefits.

Start the Day With Whole Grains

A bowl of whole grain cereal with berries.

Oatmeal or whole-grain cereal have fiber and complex carbohydrates that help you to feel fuller for longer, so you'll be less inclined to overeat later in the day. These breakfasts help reduce LDL "bad" cholesterol and can help with your weight control.

Go Nuts for Cardiovascular Health

Various types of nuts.

Nuts help to lower cholesterol because they are high in monounsaturated fat. This form of fat lowers LDL "bad" cholesterol while maintaining HDL "good" cholesterol levels. This can lower the risk of heart disease. Only eat a handful, though, because nuts are high in calories, especially if they are coated in sugar or chocolate.

Unsaturated Fats Protect the Heart

A hand dipping bread in olive oil.

Our daily fat needs are only about a third of our daily calories. However, the form of fat makes a difference. Unsaturated fats (in canola, olive, and safflower oils) lower LDL "bad" cholesterol levels. Saturated fats (in butter and palm oil) and trans fats increase LDL cholesterol. All fats have calories. Moderation is the key.

Eat More Beans, Fewer Potatoes

A bowl of lentils.

Carbohydrates are important for energy production. However, there are differences in the quality of carbohydrates, too. Whole grains like beans, quinoa, whole-wheat pasta, and brown rice are high in fiber that can help lower cholesterol. Whole grains also keep you feeling full longer. The carbohydrates in pastries, white rice, white bread, and potatoes boost blood sugar levels rapidly. This can lead you to feel hungry sooner, potentially leading to overeating.

Get Moving with Exercise!

A woman exercising on the floor.

Short intervals of regular exercise can help lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol. Maintain an ideal weight for lower blood pressure and heart disease risk. Exercise also improves cardiovascular health by helping to maintain an optimal body weight. Obviously, it is ideal when you can manage cholesterol without medication.

Just Go for a Walk

A couple walking in a park.

Walking is easy, healthy, and good pair of shoes is your only requirement. This too can lower your risk of stroke and heart disease, help you lose weight, maintain balance, and keep bones strong. Short walks are much better than no walks.

Work Out Without Going to the Gym

A man playing with his son in a wheelbarrow.

Any kind of cardiovascular activity can be beneficial to heart health. But check with your doctor for guidelines. Simple activities that can be of benefit include gardening, dancing, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Even housework can qualify as exercise.

Take Control of Your Health

A woman stretching before her outdoor exercise.

Stay on track with a consistent program of cholesterol management and learn the tricks that maintain your health. Checking food labels for nutrition facts can be very helpful. It also helps to vary your exercise routine during the week.

What to Do When Eating Out

A sandwich plate with french fries.

When you eat out be careful about the quality and quantity of your food consumption. Watch out for hidden salt, calories, and saturated fats. Don’t super-size your order. Choose broiled, baked, steamed, and grilled foods instead of fried. Have the sauces on the side.

Watch for Hidden Traps

A woman looking at a nutrition label while grocery shopping.

Managing cholesterol with your diet begins at the grocery store. Look at nutrition labels. Check serving sizes. Don’t be a victim of aggressive marketing advertisements. Does the package contain two servings instead of one?

Don't Stress

A woman relaxing and breathing fresh air.

Stress can raise blood pressure, which can lead to heart and blood vessel disease. Stress reduction can be fun. Take a break from your usual routines of daily living. Simple and convenient methods to reduce stress include meditation, biofeedback, and relaxation exercises.

Losing Means Winning

A man pinching his belly at the beach.

Losing weight when you are obese lowers blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides and decreases your risk of stroke and heart disease. An optimal body weight puts less stress on the heart. It also reduces the strain on joints and ligaments.

Follow Your Doctor's Advice

A woman checking her weight at the doctor’s office.

Continue managing your cholesterol for life with regular doctor checkups, exercise, and healthy food choices. These lifestyle changes can help you to reduce the risk of disease and promote longevity. Work with your health care professionals to get tips to improve your cholesterol by changing your routine.

Lower Your Cholesterol, Save Your Heart

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