How to Reduce Your Cholesterol?

  • Regular exercise
  • Healthy diet
  • Losing weight
  • Medication
  • Stop smoking

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance found in the walls of cells in all parts of the body. Cholesterol is useful to make hormones, bile acids, vitamin D, and other substances in your body. Cholesterol circulates in the bloodstream but cannot travel by itself because, cholesterol and blood do not mix. So, cholesterol travels in lipoproteins in the bloodstream. Two types of lipoproteins carry cholesterol in the blood.

  •     Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) – “Bad” cholesterol because it carries cholesterol to tissues. Most of the cholesterol in the blood is  LDL. The higher the level of LDL cholesterol in the blood, the greater your risk for heart disease.
  •     High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) – “Good” cholesterol because it takes cholesterol from tissues to the liver, which removes it from the body. A low-level of HDL cholesterol increases your risk for heart disease.

If there is too much cholesterol in the blood, some of the excess can become trapped in artery walls. It can narrow vessels and make them less flexible; a condition called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis of the arteries of the heart (coronary arteries) can block the blood supply to some parts of the heart, then the blood may not be able to bring enough oxygen and nutrients to the heart muscle. This can cause life-threatening  heart diseases.


Heart-disease Risk Factors

Risk factors you can’t change.

  •     Age
  •     Family history of early heart disease

Risk factors you can change.

  •     Smoking
  •     High blood pressure
  •     High blood cholesterol
  •     Overweight/Obesity
  •     Physical inactivity
  •     Diabetes


Those Under Your Control

Three nutrients in your diet can increase your LDL levels.

  •     Saturated fat – found mostly in foods that come from animals.
  •     Trans fat – found mostly in foods made with hydrogenated oils and fats.
  •     Cholesterol – which comes only from animal products.

Saturated fat raises your LDL cholesterol level more than anything else in your diet.

Overweight tends to increase your LDL level and triglycerides, a fatty substance in the blood and in food and lowers HDL. Losing weight may decrease your LDL and triglycerides, while raising your HDL.

Physical inactivity
Being physically inactive causes overweight and can raise LDL and lower HDL.


What Are Triglycerides?

Triglycerides, which are produced in the liver, are another type of bad fat found in the blood. Causes for raising triglycerides are overweight/obesity, physical inactivity, cigarette smoking, excess alcohol intake, and a diet very high in simple sugars.


Knowing Your Cholesterol Levels

All adults age 20 years and older should check their cholesterol levels at least once every five years. The recommended cholesterol test is called a “lipoprotein profile/Lipid profile.” The test is done after a nine to twelve hours fast.


Treating Your High Cholesterol

  •     Reduce saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol in your diet.
  •     Add plant stanols/sterols to your diet.
  •     Increase soluble fibres in your diet.
  •     Increase physical activity.
  •     If overweight, you should cut your weight.
  •     Stop smoking.
  •     Limit alcohol consumption.
  •     Cholesterol-lowering drugs, if needed (as prescribed by your physician).


Dietary facts

Saturated fat
It is found in large amounts in foods from animals, such as egg yolk, fatty cuts of meat, poultry with the skin, whole-milk dairy products, and lard, as well as in some vegetable oils, including coconut and palm oils.

Unsaturated fat
There are two types of unsaturated fat – monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. They help you to cut blood cholesterol level. Unsaturated fat is found in vegetable oils (olive, canola, sunflower, and peanut oils), safflower, sunflower, corn, soybean, most nuts, olives, avocados, and fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna and mackerel.

Trans fat
It raises blood cholesterol similar to saturated fat. Trans fat is found mainly in foods made with hydrogenated vegetable oils, such as many margarines, dairy products and some meats, baked products such as crackers, cookies, doughnuts, and breads, and foods fried in hydrogenated oils.

Soluble fibres
They are found in vegetables, legumes and fruits. Soluble fibres help to cut blood LDL level. More fibres in your diet (soluble and insoluble) make the feeling of satiety, which may help you to consume fewer calories.

Plant stanols and sterols
They help to reduce the absorption of cholesterol from your digestive tract, lowering blood LDL level and are found in many plants.


Importance of physical activity

Physical activity can help you to manage body weight and cut your LDL. It also can help raise HDL and lower triglycerides, improve the fitness of your heart and lungs, and reduce blood pressure. And it can cut your risk for developing diabetes or if you already have diabetes, lessen your need for insulin. Do at least 30 minutes of a moderate-intensity activity such as brisk walking, dancing, bowling, bicycling (5 miles in 30 minutes), as well as gardening and house cleaning on preferably all days of the week.


Maintain a healthy weight

Being overweight or obese increases your chances for having elevated triglycerides, a low HDL, and a high LDL. You’re also more likely to develop high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, and other serious health problems.


Maintain a good BMI value.


body mass index (BMI)


BMI = 18.5 to 24.9 is normal weight.
BMI = 25 to 29.9 is overweight.
BMI = 30 or greater is obese.


(Photo courtesy Vinoth Chandar)


Related Links: 

Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease
High Blood Pressure
How to Manage Chest Pain?

How to Prevent a Stroke?

About the author
Dr. Nalaka Priyantha is the founder and author of 'DRN Health'. He currently works at the Ministry of Health, Sri Lanka as a senior medical officer. He is blogging about healthy living since 2012.
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