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You may be able to improve your cholesterol and triglyceride levels by changing your lifestyle. The following lifestyle changes not only lower your cholesterol levels, but they also can lower your risk of heart disease.

General Guidelines
Eat a Diet Low in Saturated and Trans Fat and Cholesterol

A diet low in saturated and trans fat and cholesterol and rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables will help lower cholesterol levels. Vegetarian and vegans diets are two examples that may be beneficial.

Follow the meal plan recommended by your doctor. Or, ask for a referral to a registered dietitian who can design an eating plan for you.

General guidelines include:

  • Limit calories from saturated fat to fewer than 7% of your total calorie intake and cholesterol to less than 200 mg per day.
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables per day, and plenty of whole grains.
  • Eat oily fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids twice a week.
  • Limit excess carbohydrates.
Exercise Regularly

Exercise can help decrease LDL and increase HDL cholesterol levels. Choose exercises you enjoy and will make a regular part of your day. Strive to maintain an exercise program that keeps you fit and at a healthful weight. For most people, this could include walking or participating in another aerobic activity for 30 minutes every day. But check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program. Some people with hyperlipidemia may already have hardening of the arteries or heart disease, which increases the risk of a heart attack or death while exercising.

Lose Weight If You Are Overweight

Follow the dietary and exercise plan recommended by your doctor. To lose weight, consume fewer calories than you expend. To maintain a healthful weight, eat an equal number of calories to those you use.

Drink Alcohol Only in Moderation

Alcohol can raise triglyceride levels. Moderation means one or fewer alcoholic beverages per day for women and two or fewer for men. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer or four ounces of wine or one ounce of 100-proof spirits.

If You Smoke, Quit

Quitting smoking is one of the most effective ways to lower your risk of developing heart disease.

Take Your Medications As Ordered

Make sure other medical conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes are being treated and controlled.

If your doctor has ordered medication to lower your cholesterol, take it exactly as directed. Do not skip pills or stop taking them without the advice of your doctor. Report any side effects to the doctor. The medications your doctor orders are important to maintaining your health, but must sometimes be changed or adjusted because of undesirable reactions.

When to Contact Your Doctor

Contact your doctor immediately if you develop any of the following signs:

  • Signs of heart disease: chest pain, dizziness or lightheadedness, nausea, a cold sweat, or shortness of breath
  • Signs of peripheral artery disease: leg pain or change in color of extremities
  • Signs of stroke: numbness, weakness, dizziness, loss of balance, or trouble with vision or walking
References:

How is high blood cholesterol treated? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hbc/treatment.html. Updated September 19, 2012. Accessed March 22, 2013.

Hypercholesterolemia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated February 11, 2013. Accessed March 22, 2013.

Prevention and treatment of high cholesterol. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/PreventionTreatmentofHighCholesterol/Prevention-and-Treatment-of-High-Cholesterol_UCM_001215_Article.jsp. Updated August 8, 2012. Accessed March 22, 2013.

12/14/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us: Ferdowsian HR, Barnard ND. Effects of plant-based diets on plasma lipids. Am J Cardiol. 2009;104(7):947-956.

Last reviewed June 2013 by Brian Randall, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


 
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