How to do it, how long it takes

Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels helps prevent heart disease. A person with high LDL cholesterol can use a combination of diet and habit changes to lower their LDL cholesterol to healthy levels over time.

The body needs some cholesterol to function normally. But too much cholesterol – especially low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol – increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes.

People who are concerned about their cholesterol may wonder how to lower their cholesterol in 30 days. However, lowering cholesterol takes time and most research looks at cholesterol changes over many months.

People who want to lower their cholesterol naturally can lower their cholesterol steadily with some healthy lifestyle changes.

This article looks at what cholesterol is, how it affects health, how long it takes to lower cholesterol, normal and high cholesterol, and the best ways to lower cholesterol.

The liver naturally produces cholesterol, a fatty substance that helps the body make hormones and digest fatty foods.

There is also cholesterol in animal foods, such as eggs and meat. The body does not need dietary cholesterol and can produce the cholesterol it needs naturally.

Cholesterol tests measure two types of cholesterol:

  • Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL): This type of cholesterol is what many people consider the “bad” kind. High levels of LDL can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, clogged arteries and other heart health problems.
  • High Density Lipoprotein (HDL): This “good” cholesterol can help remove cholesterol and return it to the liver. Higher levels of HDL can lower a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease.

Total cholesterol is a measure of HDL plus LDL and also triglycerides.

If a person has low HDL cholesterol and high LDL cholesterol, the risk of heart disease is higher.

Cholesterol drops over time, not suddenly, after a few days of healthier living. There is no fixed period of time in which cholesterol is guaranteed to fall.

Cholesterol-lowering drugs usually cause a change in LDL within 6 to 8 weeks. It is possible for lifestyle changes to change cholesterol levels within a few weeks. However, it may take longer usually about 3 months – sometimes more.

Some doctors to advise adding a cholesterol-lowering drug if a person has not lowered their LDL cholesterol after about 12 weeks of lifestyle changes.

For most people, a healthy cholesterol level is as follows:

  • Total Cholesterol: less than 200 milligrams per deciliter
  • LDL “bad” cholesterol: less than 100 mg/dL
  • HDL “good” cholesterol: greater than 60 mg/dL
  • triglycerides: less than 150 mg/dL

This is according to an article in the magazine Circulation, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association (AHA) recommend the use of statins to lower cholesterol in people with cholesterol higher than these levels.

She, however also recommend doctors consider a person’s cholesterol levels and overall risk of cardiovascular disease before prescribing a cholesterol-lowering drug.

The AHA recommends that people with atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease receive high-intensity statin therapy, maximally tolerated statin therapy to lower LDL by at least 50%.

The AHA also recommends high-intensity statin therapy for individuals with severe primary hypercholesterolemia (LDL greater than OR equal to 190 mg/dL).

There are a number of habit changes that a person can incorporate into their daily routines to lower their LDL levels gradually and consistently over time. Including:

Eat a balanced diet

Many different foods contain cholesterol, and some foods, such as eggs, are high in cholesterol.

However, a number of studies have found that the cholesterol a person gets from food does not substantially raise blood cholesterol levels.

Instead, it involves eating a balanced diet with different nutrients.

A person can try the following:

  • Eat a variety of nutritious foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
  • Avoid trans fats and limit foods high in saturated fat.
  • Limit foods with added sugars.
  • Eat a low-sodium diet. Many processed foods are high in sodium, even though they don’t taste salty.
  • Eat fiber-rich foods such as oatmeal, fruits, vegetables, and beans.

Because cholesterol intake does not directly correlate with cholesterol levels in most people, people do not necessarily need to avoid foods that contain cholesterol. Instead, most people should focus on eating a balanced diet low in trans fats and saturated fats.

However, for some people, cholesterol intake has an important relationship with serum levels and they should monitor their dietary cholesterol intake accordingly.

Keep a moderate weight

Maintaining or achieving a moderate weight that is within the BMI range recommended by doctors can help lower cholesterol while reducing other risks of heart disease.

A person should focus on achieving and maintaining a moderate weight with a combination of healthy eating and lots of exercise, as both can also lower cholesterol.

Get more active

Physical activity exercises the heart, reducing the risk of heart disease. It can also help the body remove cholesterol from the blood more effectively, steadily lowering bad cholesterol.

At the very least, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as walking, per week.

People who are not active can start slowly. Even a slight increase in physical activity can improve health and make it easier to move towards more physical activity.

Make lifestyle changes

Quit or cut back on habits such as to smoke and drinking excessively may help lower cholesterol while improving overall health.

Ask about cholesterol medication

Cholesterol medications such as statins may be the quickest way for some people to lower cholesterol — usually within 6 to 8 weeks. This allows a person to quickly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease while cultivating a healthy lifestyle. During this time, a person can focus on lowering cholesterol over time with lifestyle and dietary changes.

Because high cholesterol is a risk factor for serious heart health problems, the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology recommend statins for many groups of people with high LDL cholesterol.

If LDL cholesterol does not drop enough through diet and lifestyle changes and statins, a person may need additional medications.

Lowering LDL cholesterol can reduce a person’s risk of heart disease. The heart-healthy habits that can lower cholesterol can also improve a person’s overall health by helping them maintain a healthy weight and improving blood glucose control in people with type 2 diabetes.

This means that even people with moderately high cholesterol can see health improvements with a cholesterol-friendly lifestyle.

Even as cholesterol drops, maintaining these healthy habits can improve long-term health.

Talk to a doctor about individual risk factors for heart disease and which cholesterol management strategies are best for a person’s overall health.

How to do it, how long it takes

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