How to Lower LDL Cholesterol Levels

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A high level of LDL--low-density lipoprotein--cholesterol places a person at risk for developing heart disease or having a heart attack, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. The goal of lowering this type of cholesterol is to lower a person's risks for these conditions. Many treatment options exist for those with high cholesterol, from lifestyle changes to medications. For some people, it takes a combination of both.

Reduce your weight. Being overweight is a risk factor for high cholesterol, therefor, shedding excess pounds can help lower LDL levels, as the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute explains. Men with a waist measurement greater than 40 inches and women whose waists are larger than 35 inches suffer from a condition known as metabolic syndrome, and face a greater risk for developing heart disease.

Do 30 minutes of physical activity on most days, suggests the American Heart Association. Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for heart disease. Not only does it help reduce a person's weight, it helps increase a person's HDL--the good cholesterol. The job of HDL cholesterol is to carry away excess amounts of LDL; the higher the levels of HDL, the lower the levels of LDL.

The American Heart Association suggests 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week, and recommends aerobic activities such as running, brisk walking or swimming--any activity that increases the heart rate. Even gardening, raking the yard or dancing in the living room are acceptable.

Adhere to the TLC diet, which includes lifestyle changes made specifically to lower LDL cholesterol. These include limiting saturated fats and cholesterol, eating enough calories to maintain weight, increasing the amount of soluble fiber because it absorbs excess cholesterol and increasing foods fortified with plant sterols and stanols, such as margarine, orange juice and yogurt drinks. Sterols and stanols--when one consumes at least 2g a day--can reduce cholesterol by more than 10 percent, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Take prescribed medication to reduce your LDL cholesterol. The first choice of medication, according to the American Heart Association, when it comes to lowering LDL cholesterol, belong to a class of drugs known as statins. Not only are they extremely effective for lowering LDL cholesterol, they have few short-term side effects. Most patients tolerate the medications in this class well and have few drug interactions.

In some cases, patients may require a combination of drugs before their cholesterol levels are effectively lowered. Patients who take medications need to remember that medication is not a cure-all, and should still adhere to lifestyle changes to see optimal results and a decrease in their cholesterol levels.