Your Lower Cholesterol Toolbox
Get the tools you need to help lower cholesterol -- and reduce your risk of disease -- starting now.
Exercise to Lower Cholesterol
Regular physical activity is key to keeping your cholesterol low. Studies
have found that even moderate exercise is enough to boost HDL (good)
cholesterol and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. In a recent study of young and
middle-aged women in Spain, researchers found that the more calories a woman
burned through moderate exercise, the lower her LDL level and the higher her
Exercise, in combination with a healthy diet, is also important because
while a low-fat lower calorie diet helps lower total cholesterol and bad LDL
cholesterol, one study showed it can also drop good HDL cholesterol by 7% over
a year. That same study showed an increase in good HDL cholesterol (and
a decrease in LDL and total cholesterol) for those who walked or jogged about 8
miles a week.
Weight Loss to Lower Cholesterol
Both a healthy diet and regular physical exercise can lead to another
important tool in lower cholesterol: weight loss.
Excess weight tends to increase your LDL cholesterol level. If you are
overweight and have high LDL cholesterol, losing weight may help you lower it.
Weight loss also helps to lower triglycerides (another form of fat in your
blood and one which you should aim to keep below 150 mg/dL) and raise HDL
("good") cholesterol levels.
Medications to Lower Cholesterol
Some people find they can't lower cholesterol enough with lifestyle changes
alone. "There are genetic factors that affect cholesterol levels," says Gotto.
"One person may be able to keep their cholesterol low without much effort at
all, while someone else may eat right, exercise, keep their weight down, and
still have high cholesterol."
That's where medications come in. There are several types of
cholesterol-lowering medications, but the most commonly prescribed are statins.
There's a good reason for that, says Gotto. "They are very effective in
lowering LDL levels in the majority of patients." Studies have shown that
statins can lower LDL cholesterol by 20% to 60%.
Other medications to lower cholesterol include:
- Bile acid sequestrants
- Nicotinic acid (niacin)
- Fibric acids
- Cholesterol absorption
- Combination drugs such as
Each of these drugs act in slightly different ways. For example, some lower
LDL cholesterol, while others treat high levels of triglycerides and/or raise
HDL cholesterol. Your doctor will help you decide which medication -- or
combination -- is best for you.
However, medication may not help you as much if you don't help yourself.
"It's been found that if you continue to eat a high-fat diet, the effects of
cholesterol-lowering drugs like statins are diminished," Gotto says. So if you
start taking a cholesterol-lowering medication and figure it's OK to load up on
the Krispy Kremes -- it's not.
Diet, exercise, weight loss, and medication: Your cholesterol-lowering
toolbox has all you need to help you lower cholesterol -- and keep it low.