Keeping cholesterol levels under control can reduce an individual’s risk of heart disease, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends keeping total cholesterol levels under 200 and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or "bad" cholesterol levels under 130 -- or under 100 if you are at a higher risk of heart disease due to a personal or family history. Making changes to your diet and level of physical activity can help you lower your cholesterol levels, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Consume more soluble fiber. Adding 5 to 10 g of soluble fiber to your diet a day can reduce cholesterol levels by preventing the amount of cholesterol that is absorbed by the bloodstream, according to the Mayo Clinic. Oat bran, beans, nuts and certain fruits and vegetables are good sources of soluble fiber.
Choose healthier meats. Opt for lean cuts of beef and extra lean ground meat. Remove the skin from poultry. Cut off all visible fat before cooking any type of meat. Avoid processed meats, such as hot dogs and deli meats, because they are high in saturated fat. Stay away from fried meats. The American Heart Association recommends eating meatless or mostly meatless meals to reduce cholesterol levels. Avoid eating egg yolks, which contain cholesterol.
Include seafood in your diet. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least twice a week to lower cholesterol levels. Fish is lower in cholesterol and saturated fat than other types of meat. Eating fish also allows you to benefit from omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to other heart health benefits, such as lower blood pressure and fewer blood clots, according to the Mayo Clinic. Avoid eating fried or breaded fish.
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are low in calories and can be high in fiber. Avoid cooking or flavoring vegetables with additives which are high in saturated fat and cholesterol, such as butter. Add flavor to vegetables with olive oil or herbs and spices, such as rosemary, basil and oregano.
Exercise regularly. The Mayo Clinic recommends taking part in 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity a day with a healthcare provider's approval. Exercising lowers bad cholesterol levels and increases good cholesterol levels. Find a type of exercise that you will enjoy so that it will be easier to do it regularly.
Lose weight. Losing 5 to 10 lbs. can help reduce cholesterol levels, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. Making dietary changes and exercising regularly will generally lead to weight loss. Consult a healthcare provider if you have a difficult time losing weight to determine if a health condition may be to blame.
Talk to your doctor about using medication. Eating healthier, exercising and losing weight is not always enough to lower cholesterol for some individuals. Follow a healthcare provider’s instructions on cholesterol-lowering medications, which are called statins. Do not stop taking medication for lowering your cholesterol without speaking to your doctor first.
Reduce your trans fat intake. Trans fat is a partially hydrogenated oil which raises LDL and total cholesterol levels, according to the Mayo Clinic. Trans fat is generally found in margarine, fast foods, baked goods and snacks. Do not believe labels that say a product is trans fat-free. Trans fat-free claims are allowed to be made in the United States if there is less than 0.5 g per serving, according to the Mayo Clinic. Check labels for partially hydrogenated oil instead of trans fat.
Smoking increases your risk of heart disease. Quitting can lower your cholesterol levels and decrease your risk of heart disease within 24 hours, according to the Mayo Clinic. Consult a healthcare provider for advice on how to quit.