What can I do to lower my cholesterol?
One of the first things you can do to lower your cholesterol is to make lifestyle changes – diet, exercise and stopping smoking. For some people, these first steps can lower their cholesterol enough to avoid medications. Other people need to make lifestyle changes and go on medication. We recommend that you talk to your doctor about what’s right for you.
Eat a heart-healthy diet
Here are some ways to include more heart-healthy foods in your diet:
- Control total fat. Limit all fats to no more than 35 percent of your total daily calories. You should limit saturated fats to less than 7 percent and trans fats to less than 1 percent of your total calories.
- Limit dietary cholesterol. Limit or avoid organ meats, egg yolks and whole-milk products. Shop for the leanest cuts of meat available. Roast or bake your chicken or turkey with the skin removed. Avoid fried and greasy foods.
- Add foods that are high in soluble fiber such as oat bran, oatmeal, beans, peas, rice bran, barley, citrus fruits, strawberries and apples.
- Eat more fish. Look for cold water fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring that contain omega-3 fatty acids. These omega-3s may lower your triglyceride levels. Pregnant women or those who plan to become pregnant, should limit their intake of cold water fish due to the possibility of mercury contamination.
- Consider soy products. Soy contains a compound called “isoflavones” that help regulate cholesterol levels. Eating soy proteins can reduce your total cholesterol levels, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides while raising your HDL cholesterol.
- Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all.
- Reduce sugar intake.
Losing weight may improve your cholesterol levels. Doctors recommend adding aerobic exercise such as brisk walking, jogging, bicycling or swimming to your life to help maintain a healthy weight and lower cholesterol. Start gradually and build up to exercising at least 30 minutes every day, if possible. You can break your exercise up in 10 or 15-minute sessions throughout the day. Talk with your doctor before beginning an exercise program.
Shopping for Low Fat and Low Cholesterol Foods
- Lean cuts of red meat (no more than 6 ounces cooked per day)
- White meat chicken or turkey with the skin removed (baked or roasted)
- Fruits and vegetables (canned or fresh)
- Whole grains, beans, pasta, breads, potatoes, hot and cold cereals, taco shells and plain tortillas
- Vegetable oils (olive, corn and canola)
- Fish, shrimp and shellfish (baked or broiled)
- Skim milk, ice milk, low-fat/non-fat yogurt and cheeses labeled “low fat,” “light” or “part skim”
- Angel food cake, fig bar cookies, gingersnaps, animal crackers, jelly beans
- Hard candies, popsicles, frozen non- or low-fat yogurt, sherbet
For a free, confidential physician referral, call toll-free 1-800-381-2733.