Can You Lower Cholesterol Fast? 

Many of us have gone to an annual checkup, only to have the doctor deliver some surprising news: Your cholesterol is too high. Whether the blood tests came back from the lab showing levels that were slowly creeping higher – or maybe spiking into a zone that’s considered dangerous for your health – you’ve been given the message that your “bad” cholesterol number is too high and needs to come down. So what’s next? 

Wouldn’t it be great if you could simply wave a medical magic wand and make all that internal cholesterol buildup disappear? Maybe undergo an artery scrubbing that would leave your cardiac system completely clean? Unfortunately, there is no fast fix for high cholesterol. Not all high cholesterol is from diet/lifestyle. Some medical conditions and genetics may cause an elevated cholesterol. But there are several things you can do to work toward steadily and safely lowering your cholesterol levels and making yourself healthier. Let’s look at how this works. 

What is cholesterol?

First, know that cholesterol is made in your body and needed by your body for lots of important functions. It’s a waxy substance made by the liver. Cholesterol is found in your blood and in all your body’s cells. It’s used by the body to make vitamin D, hormones, different types of tissue and even cell walls. Even though cholesterol is important for all these reasons, its levels are still a balancing act. If your “bad” cholesterol level gets too high, it can endanger your heart health.  

Why “good” vs. “bad” cholesterol matters. In your body, two types of lipoproteins carry cholesterol. They’re known as LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, and HDL, or “good” cholesterol. Blood tests measure for both of these levels, according to the American Heart Association. A high LDL level is concerning because this type of “bad” cholesterol can lead to fatty buildup that clogs the walls of arteries. When these arteries become narrower, it raises the risk for heart attacks, strokes and peripheral artery disease.  

Ways to lower your cholesterol. About 38% of adults in the United States have high cholesterol. Because there are no outward symptoms, people who have high cholesterol and have not had a blood test to detect it may not find out about their health risk until they suffer chest pains or other symptoms. Some people lower their level through cholesterol-reducing drugs called statins, which are prescribed by their doctors. Other people work toward lowering their cholesterol level using the following methods, or by a combination of both. 

Ease into a heart-healthy diet, then keep it up. Embracing fiber-rich foods and fresh fruits and vegetables can help lower your cholesterol, according to a guide published by the Mayo Clinic.  If you are not already eating these foods, slowly incorporate them into your daily diet:  

  • Oatmeal 
  • Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, like tuna and salmon 
  • Almonds and other tree nuts 
  • Avocados 
  • Olive oil 

Other lifestyle changes that can help prevent high cholesterol or lower it: 

  • Daily exercise. Strive for at least 30 minutes each day 
  • Don’t smoke 
  • Drink alcohol in moderation only 
  • Maintain a healthy weight  
  • Limit animal fats 
  • Follow a low-salt diet 
  • Manage your stress levels

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Photo credit: Getty Images

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