Lifestyle changes are the first line of defense for a person with high cholesterol.
These can include:
- Changing your diet
- Losing weight
- Quitting smoking or nicotine use.
It may take 3 to 6 months before you and your healthcare provider see the full benefit of lifestyle changes on your cholesterol level.
Changing Your Diet
In most cases, the first thing a person with high cholesterol should do is to change his or her diet. A cholesterol-lowering eating plan includes:
- Limiting the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol you eat.
- Eating only enough calories to achieve or maintain a healthy weight.
- Increasing the soluble fiber in your diet. For example, oatmeal, kidney beans, and apples are good sources of soluble fiber.
- Adding cholesterol-lowering food, such as margarines that contain plant sterol or stanol esters that lower cholesterol for some people.
A specific diet for lowering cholesterol (called the TLC diet) has been shown to decrease LDL cholesterol levels (see Low Cholesterol Diet). This is a low-saturated-fat, low-cholesterol eating plan that calls for less than 7 percent of calories from saturated fat and less than 200 mg of dietary cholesterol per day. The TLC diet recommends only enough calories to maintain a desirable weight and avoid weight gain.
If your LDL is not lowered enough by reducing your saturated fat and cholesterol intake, the amount of soluble fiber in your diet can be increased. Certain food products that contain plant stanol or plant sterols (for example, cholesterol-lowering margarines) can also be added to the TLC diet to boost its LDL-lowering power (see Cholesterol Lowering Food).