Lifestyle Changes to Control Cholesterol

You can control your cholesterol through diet, exercise, weight management, quitting smoking, and stress management as directed by your healthcare provider. These things can also lower your risk for heart and vascular disease.

Woman walking outdoors.

Eating healthy

Your healthcare provider will give you information on diet changes you may need to make. Your provider may recommend that you see a registered dietitian for help with diet changes. Changes may include:

  • Cutting back on the amount of fat and cholesterol in your meals

  • Eating less salt (sodium). This is especially important if you also have high blood pressure.

  • Eating more fresh vegetables and fruits

  • Eating lean proteins, such as fish, poultry, beans, and peas

  • Eating less red meat and processed meats

  • Using low-fat dairy products

  • Using vegetable and nut oils in limited amounts

  • Limiting how many sweets and processed foods, like chips, cookies, and baked goods, that you eat 

  • Limiting how many sugar-sweetened beverages you drink

  • Limiting how often you eat out

  • Limiting alcohol

Getting exercise

Regular exercise is a good way to help your body control cholesterol. Regular exercise can help in many ways.

  • Give more oxygen to your muscles and tissues

  • Help you manage your weight

  • Help your heart pump better

  • Lower your blood pressure

  • Reduce stress and anxiety

Your healthcare provider may recommend that you get more physical activity if you haven't been active. Experts recommend at least 2 ½ hours of moderate intensity exercise each week for substantial health benefits. Your provider may recommend that you get moderate to vigorous physical activity for at least 40 minutes each day. You should do this for at least 3 to 4 days each week. If you can't do the full 40 minutes, doing moderate to vigorous activity in a shorter amount of time is better for your cholesterol than not doing any. A few examples of moderate to vigorous activity are:

  • Walking at a brisk pace. This is about 3 to 4 miles per hour.

  • Jogging or running

  • Swimming or water aerobics

  • Hiking

  • Dancing

  • Martial arts

  • Tennis

  • Riding a bicycle or stationary bike

  • Dancing

Managing your weight

If you are overweight or obese, your healthcare provider will work with you to help you lose weight and lower your BMI (body mass index). Making diet changes and getting more physical activity can help. Changing your diet will help you lose weight more easily than adding exercise.

Quitting smoking

Smoking and other tobacco use can raise cholesterol and make it harder to control. Quitting is tough. But millions of people have given up tobacco for good. You can quit, too! Think about some of the reasons below to quit smoking. Do any of them make you think twice about your smoking habit?

Stop smoking because it:

  • Keeps your cholesterol high, even if you make all the other changes you’re supposed to

  • Damages your body. It especially harms your heart, lungs, skin, and blood vessels.

  • Makes you more likely to have a heart attack (acute myocardial infarction), stroke, or cancer

  • Stains your teeth

  • Makes your skin, clothes, and breath smell bad

  • Costs a lot of money

Ask your healthcare provider for medicines or nicotine replacement products to help you quit.

Controlling stress 

Learn ways to control stress. This will help you deal with stress in your home and work life. Controlling stress can greatly lower your risk of getting cardiovascular disease.

© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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