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5 Steps to Manage Cholesterol Levels: Diet, Exercise and Medications

Dr. Rahul Verma 1364 Views
Updated: 11 Dec 2023
Published: 11 Dec 2023
5 Steps to Manage Cholesterol Levels

Cholesterol is a waxy substance present in every cell in your body. It plays a crucial role in producing various hormones and vital substances needed by your body for proper functioning. There are two kinds of cholesterol found in the body- low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Also known as ‘bad’ cholesterol, LDL can cause a buildup of cholesterol in your blood vessels, resulting in blockages and an increased risk of heart attacks. ‘HDL’, or good cholesterol, however, carries cholesterol away from the walls of your blood vessels, preventing arterial blockages and boosting heart health. Your overall cholesterol levels depend on a variety of factors, including your diet, family history and lifestyle. Fortunately, there are measures you can take to improve your cholesterol levels and enhance your cardiovascular health.

5 Tips to Manage Your Cholesterol Levels

There are several steps you can take to improve your cholesterol levels, such as:

  1. Take a Heart-healthy Diet!

    If you are wondering how to reduce cholesterol levels, then the best thing to do is to change your diet. Adopting a heart-healthy diet can help in bringing down your LDL cholesterol levels and increasing your HDL levels. Here’s what a heart-healthy diet looks like:

    Cut Out Trans Fat: Trans fats lower your HDL levels and increase your LDL levels, boosting your risk of stroke and heart disease. It’s a good idea to avoid these fats altogether. Some products may contain small amounts of trans fats, which are often listed as "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil”. So, check the label carefully while shopping for food, especially items like margarine, pastries, fried fast foods, microwaveable popcorn, and non-dairy coffee creamer.

    Increase the Intake of Soluble Fibre: Soluble fibre helps in reducing cholesterol absorption in the blood. Moreover, it promotes a feeling of fullness, preventing you from craving fast food. Some foods loaded with fibre include kidney beans, oatmeal, apples, pears, and brussels sprouts.

    Eat Foods Packed with Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of heart-healthy polyunsaturated fat that reduces the LDL cholesterol levels, lowering your risk of developing heart disease. These fatty acids also have other benefits for cardiac health, such as lowering blood pressure. Some foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids are mackerel, salmon, herring, flaxseeds, and walnuts.

    Switch Out Saturated Fats with Monounsaturated Fats: Saturated fats, which are abundant in full-fat dairy products and meat, significantly increase your total cholesterol levels. It’s wise to cut down your intake of saturated cholesterol to decrease your LDL cholesterol levels. Instead, opt for a diet rich in monounsaturated fats, which help bring down your LDL levels and boost HDL levels. Some rich sources of monounsaturated fats include almonds, olive oil, pecans, cashews, avocados, and canola oil.

    Eat More Whey Protein: Whey protein, abundant in dairy products, offers several health benefits. It is often prescribed as a supplement for reducing both total and LDL cholesterol levels and lowering blood pressure.

  2. Exercise Regularly

    Regular exercise can prove to be highly beneficial for improving cholesterol levels. Engaging in physical activity has shown to increase HDL cholesterol and bring down LDL and triglyceride levels. If your doctor approves, then indulge in a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five times every week or 20 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise three times every week. If you need some motivation to stick to your workout schedule, then consider partnering up with someone. To stay physically active, you don’t need to go to a gym or run every day. Just try to move more whenever and however you can. For example, you can take stairs instead of using an elevator or walk briskly instead of at a slow pace. You can even engage in activities like pilates or yoga if you don’t want to leave the comfort of your home.

  3. Quit Smoking Right Away

    Smoking can decrease your HDL cholesterol and increase your LDL cholesterol, boosting your risk of suffering from a stroke or heart attack. Quitting smoking can be extremely helpful in improving your overall cholesterol levels. As a bonus, these benefits occur very quickly. Within just 20 minutes of quitting smoking, your heart rate and blood pressure recover. In just three months after you quit, your lung function and blood circulation start to improve. Furthermore, just within a year of quitting, the risk of developing heart disease becomes half that of someone who smokes. However, it’s important to keep in mind that breathing in second-hand smoke by being around smokers can also increase your LDL cholesterol levels.

  4. Maintain a Healthy Weight

    Being obese or overweight considerably raises your risk of suffering from high cholesterol levels. Shedding any excess pounds can prove to be very beneficial in lowering your cholesterol. Weight loss in overweight individuals can bring down LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol. To lose weight, you can make several small lifestyle changes, which quickly add up. Switch out sugary beverages with tap water. Try sugar-free or low-sugar sweets like sherbet or jellybeans when you are craving something sweet. Try to move around more by taking the stairs instead of a lift and parking at a distance from your workplace. Try out hobbies that require manual labour like gardening.

  5. Try Supplements

    Taking certain types of supplements can help improve your cholesterol levels and boost cardiac health. These include:

    Fish Oil: Packed with omega-3 fatty acids, like eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), fish oil can help maintain your cholesterol levels.

    Psyllium: This form of soluble fibre is readily available as a supplement and can help in improving your cholesterol levels.

    Coenzyme Q10: This food chemical helps your cells generate energy and may be helpful in lowering your cholesterol levels.

    It is highly advisable to talk to a doctor before starting any new supplements to avoid any adverse side effects.

In a Nutshell

Adopting the measures can prove to be quite helpful in improving your cholesterol levels. Increasing the intake of good cholesterol foods and exercising regularly can help you maintain your heart health. Sometimes, simply making lifestyle changes isn’t sufficient to keep your cholesterol levels in check. In such cases, your doctor may prescribe medications. It’s essential to keep up with your medications as prescribed. Adopting these lifestyle changes can help in increasing the efficacy of your medications and may even help keep the doses low.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)


  1. Which foods make cholesterol levels worse?

    Answer:- Foods rich in saturated or trans-fat, like fatty and processed meats, butter, cream, pies and pastries, can worsen your cholesterol levels.

  2. Which foods are good for cholesterol?

    Answer:- Foods that can help improve your cholesterol levels include olive oil, fish, lentils, nuts, oats, pulses, and wholegrain foods.

  3. Does quitting alcohol help improve cholesterol levels?

    Answer:-  Yes, cutting down your alcohol intake can free up your liver to deal with bad cholesterol. It also improves your heart health by reducing blood pressure and helping you lose weight. 

  4. Which supplements are good for reducing cholesterol?

    Answer:- Supplements like fish oil, psyllium, coenzyme Q10 and plant stanols and sterols may help improve your overall cholesterol levels.

  5. Does stress affect cholesterol levels?

    Answer:- Yes, when you are stressed, your cholesterol levels can surge steeply. Engaging in stress-reduction techniques like breathing exercises and meditation can help manage your cholesterol.

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