11 Tips to Cut Your Cholesterol Fast
Got high cholesterol? Learn what you can do to lower it quickly -- starting today.
2. Consider medication.
Lifestyle modifications make sense for anyone with elevated cholesterol. But if your cardiovascular risk is high, you may also need to take a cholesterol-lowering drug. Michael Richman, MD, medical director of the Center for Cholesterol Management in Los Angeles, calls drug therapy "the only thing that will work fast" to lower high cholesterol. "Everyone should do the basics, like stopping smoking and losing weight," Richman tells WebMD. "But these things lower the risk only modestly. They're nothing to write home about."
Beckerman agrees. "Lifestyle modifications are important, but we should also be emphasizing the benefits of medication when appropriate," he says.
Several types of cholesterol-lowering medication are available, including niacin, bile acid resins, and fibrates. But statins are the treatment of choice for most individuals. "Statins can lower LDL cholesterol by 20% to 50%" says Pamela Peeke, MD, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.
3. Get moving.
In addition to lowering LDL "bad" cholesterol, regular physical activity can raise HDL "good" cholesterol by up to 10%. The benefits come even with moderate exercise, such as brisk walking.
Robert Harrington, MD, professor of medicine at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, N.C., urges his patients to go for a 45-minute walk after supper.
Peeke tells WebMD, "I ask people to get a pedometer and aim for 10,000 steps a day. If you work at a desk, get up and walk around for five minutes every hour."
Whatever form your exercise takes, the key is to do it with regularity. "Some experts recommend seven days a week, although I think five days is more realistic," Richman says.
4. Avoid saturated fat.
Doctors used to think that the key to lowering high cholesterol was to cut back on eggs and other cholesterol-rich foods. But now it's clear that dietary cholesterol isn't the main culprit. "Eggs don't do all that much [to raise cholesterol]," Beckerman says. "You don't want to be throwing down six eggs a day, but recent data suggest that it's really saturated fat" that causes increases in cholesterol. And if you cooked your eggs in a slab of butter, don't overlook the fat in the butter.
"One of the first things to do when you're trying to lower your cholesterol level is to take saturated fat down a few notches," says Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, the author of several nutrition books, including the forthcoming Tell Me What to Eat If I Have Heart Disease. "The second thing to do is to start eating more 'smart' fats," Magee says. She recommends substituting canola oil or olive oil for vegetable oil, butter, stick margarine, lard, or shortening while cutting back on meat and eating more fish.