How to lower your ldl cholesterol

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Richard N. Fogoros, MD, is a retired professor of medicine and board-certified in internal medicine, clinical cardiology, and clinical electrophysiology.

Having untreated high levels of LDL cholesterol, the “bad” cholesterol, can place you at risk of developing heart disease. The good news is that, unlike other risk factors, you may be able to prevent high LDL levels or lower your LDL levels if they are already high.

Although many cholesterol medications can lower LDL levels to varying degrees, your healthcare provider may want to use therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLC) to see how low your LDL can go before putting you on medication.  

Whether you want to lower your LDL or prevent it from increasing, following a few tips can help you keep it within a healthy range.

How to lower your ldl cholesterol

Diet and Weight Loss

Being overweight or obese not only places you at risk for developing high LDL levels, it can also contribute to heart disease and other chronic medical conditions. Research hints that losing even a small amount of weight may help lower your LDL levels.  

Although studies have shown that losing weight helps lower LDL, they’ve also shown that eating the right types of foods can help your heart health.   Foods high in soluble fiber and phytosterols, and healthy fats like olive oil, have been found to help lower LDL cholesterol.

In “Your Guide to Lowering Cholesterol With TLC,” the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute notes that it’s possible to reduce your LDL by between 20% and 30% with a few simple changes in diet:  

  • Allowing less than 7% of calories to be from saturated fats can reduce LDL by 8-10%.
  • Decreasing daily cholesterol intake to less than 200mg can lower LDL by between 5% and 8%.
  • Losing 10 pounds can reduce your LDL by between 5% and 8%.
  • Adding 5 grams to 10 grams of soluble fiber a day can decrease LDL by between 3% and 5%.
  • Adding 2 daily grams of plant sterols can reduce LDL by beween 5% and 15%.

More long-term studies are needed in order to determine whether it’s the actual weight loss or the diet and exercise that go along with it that causes the reduction in LDL levels.

It’s possible for LDL cholesterol to eventually return to original levels, even when you lose weight loss and maintain it. Nonetheless, the benefits make weight maintenance and good nutrition worthy goals to have.

Increase Physical Activity

Exercise is not only good for losing weight, but moderate amounts of it may also help lower your cholesterol levels—especially your LDL cholesterol.

Aerobic exercises, such as running, cycling, jogging, and swimming, appear to benefit cholesterol the most by lowering LDL and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to studies.  

Other forms of exercise, such as yoga, walking, and weight-bearing exercises, have also been shown to modestly decrease LDL levels. Though they have not been studied to the extent of aerobic exercise.

Stop Smoking

Smoking cessation not only has a large impact on levels of HDL, or “good” cholesterol, it can also slightly lower LDL levels.

Cigarette smoking is linked to higher cholesterol levels as well as the formation of a damaging form of LDL called oxidized LDL, which contributes to atherosclerosis.  

Research has shown that cholesterol levels will decrease as soon as you stop smoking.   With each month after quitting, LDL levels continue to lower, even partially reversing the effects of smoking on cholesterol after just 90 days.

Alcohol and LDL Levels

Although moderate consumption of alcohol can significantly raise HDL levels, it can also lower LDL, according to studies.   Moderate consumption means one serving a day for women and one to two servings per day for men. (A serving is 12 ounces of beer or 5 ounces of wine.)

However, drinking more alcohol doesn’t necessarily equal better results in terms of improving your heart health. Studies have also indicated that drinking more than three alcoholic drinks a day could actually increase your chances of heart disease.

A Word From Verywell

With a few simple lifestyle changes, your LDL cholesterol levels can become lower.

Depending on your current cholesterol levels, however, these steps may not be enough. While it is good to make these changes because they will impact your overall health, be sure to follow your doctor’s recommendations regarding other ways to treat high cholesterol.

Use our Doctor Discussion Guide below to help you start that conversation about the right treatment for you.

Cholesterol Doctor Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next doctor’s appointment to help you ask the right questions.

By Jodi Kasten, RD , December 03, 2015

By age 40, 50 percent of American women (and 27 percent of all Americans) have too much “bad” cholesterol in their blood, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Making some healthy, simple changes in your diet can help you keep your LDL (low-density lipoprotein) “bad” cholesterol down.

What’s too high? Read more about knowing your numbers at the end. But first …

A little cholesterol goes a long way

Every cell in your body needs cholesterol, and your body makes all that it needs. Yet as is the case with many things in life, you can have too much of a good thing. Certain foods add to the cholesterol that your liver manufactures. This waxy substance can clog up your arteries, damage your heart health, increase your risk of stroke and Alzheimer’s disease, and even lead to fertility issues.

Cholesterol is a fat that comes in several forms and travels through your bloodstream in packages called lipoproteins. In addition to LDL, there’s a “good” cholesterol, HDL (high density lipoprotein).

HDL carries cholesterol from other parts of the body back to the liver where it is removed from the body. A third lipoprotein, triglycerides, can also cause trouble if blood levels are too high. Luckily, the diet changes that lower LDL levels can also reduce triglycerides.

Not only food

Diet, exercise and not smoking are important ways to maintain a healthy cholesterol level, yet genes also play a role. About 1 in 500 people have genes that prevent the liver from removing excess LDL. These people need to pay special attention to diet and exercise. Even with the best lifestyle, chances are they will need medications to control cholesterol.

Low cholesterol eating

Whether you have high LDL or not, the following diet tips can help keep your coronary arteries clear, flexible, and free of fatty plaque deposits.

  • Increase plant foods with fiber, protein, and antioxidants to prevent inflammation and plaque build-up, remove LDL before it gets produced, or block it from being absorbed.
  • Reduce meat (red, especially) and other animal products including high fat dairy foods. Substitute soy, beans/legumes, fatty fish, and vegetable oils for most of the protein and fat in your diet.

Seven foods to improve cholesterol levels

Incorporate more of these cholesterol-lowering foods in your diet

Oats (and barley). High fiber whole grains (unprocessed) are among the best sources of beta-glucan, a soluble fiber which may reduce LDL levels by 5-10 percent.

How much? At least 3 servings of whole grains a day. A serving is ½ cup cooked whole grain, 1-cup whole grain dry cereal, 1 slice whole grain bread.

Berries – High in fiber, they help to reduce LDL cholesterol, and also have antioxidants, which can increase HDL cholesterol and protect against heart damage. Other good fruits to eat are oranges, red grapes, apples, and pomegranates (eat the seeds too). Also vegetables such as dark leafy greens, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, broccoli, avocados and red bell peppers are rich in fiber.

How much? Aim for 1 ½-2 cups of fruits per day and 2 ½ -3 cups of vegetables daily. Avoid fruits and vegetables with sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats.

Pinto beans (and lentils). Beans and legumes are the best source of fiber for reducing LDL cholesterol and are a great substitute for animal protein. The fiber content could also help people with Diabetes control their blood sugars.

How much? Aim for ½ cup a day. Start with a ½ cup several times per week, and then work up to the higher amount.

Walnuts (and flax seeds). Nuts and seeds have fiber, protein, and high quality monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids for keeping cholesterol in check.

How much? Limit to ¼ cup (1.5oz) a day due to their high calorie content. Also make sure the nuts you eat aren’t salted or coated in sugar.

Extra virgin olive oil (and canola oil). Is a good source of monounsaturated fat, which helps reduce LDL cholesterol, and is also a good source of Vitamin E, an antioxidant.

How much? Limit to two tablespoons a day due to its high calorie content. Use in cooking, salad dressings, or on bread, in place of saturated and trans fats in your diet.

Sardines (and salmon). Fatty fish have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids that can reduce blood pressure, and risk of developing blood clots.

How much? Two 3.5-ounce servings a week. Bake or grill the fish, and avoid adding unhealthy fats.

Edamame (fresh soy beans). Rich in soluble fiber and protein and high in isoflavones, edamame is a plant compound that lowers LDL cholesterol levels. Try tempeh or tofu as a substitute for animal protein, soy milk as a substitute for cow’s milk, or roasted soy nuts for a crunchy snack.

How much? Aim for 25 grams a day, if you can. That’s ½ cup of soy nuts.

Know your numbers

If you don’t know your Cholesterol numbers, ask your doctor for a lipid panel, a simple blood test. You need to fast (no food) for 9-12 hours beforehand. So get it done first thing in the morning.

A good LDL number is less than 130 – better yet, less than 100.

By the age 20, everyone should know their good (HDL), bad (LDL), triglyceride, and total cholesterol numbers. Recheck them every five years if they’re good, and every year if they’re high, according to The National Institutes of Health.

Cholesterol is a wax-like substance found in the fatty cells of the blood. The body requires good cholesterol for maintaining and building healthy tissues; but if there is bad cholesterol in the blood in high amounts, it can turn into fat that can hinder blood flow and accelerate the risk of heart disease.

High cholesterol in the blood is mostly caused by poor diet choices and a bad lifestyle. Health experts suggest that one should not consume more than 300 grams of cholesterol per day. Good cholesterol (HDL) in the body is produced when you are on a proper balanced diet.

The risk factors for high cholesterol could lead to hypertension, diabetes, kidney problems, cardiovascular diseases, stroke, heart attack and atherosclerosis.

Here is a list of high cholesterol Indian foods to avoid that can help decrease the chances of high cholesterol.

How to lower your ldl cholesterol

1. Shellfish

Shellfish, like lobsters and prawns, should be avoided, as they contain huge amounts of cholesterol. It is mostly cooked in butter to enhance the flavour, which is not good for people suffering with heart diseases.

How to lower your ldl cholesterol

2. Butter And Ghee

Avoid consuming processed butter, as it is loaded with trans-fat and sodium that increase your cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. Instead, go for desi ghee in moderate quantities which is absolutely good for your health.

How to lower your ldl cholesterol

3. Red Meat

Red meat is packed with saturated fat that increases cholesterol in the body. Instead, choose chicken breast or fish which is low in cholesterol. Also, avoid frozen meat and processed meat like sausages, cold cuts and bacon that will increase your cholesterol.

How to lower your ldl cholesterol

4. Fast Foods

Fast foods like pizza, cheese, biscuit, burgers and chips are packed with cholesterol. These foods contain trans-fats which will increase the bad cholesterol in the blood. Cookies, cakes, fries and potato chips contain hydrogenated vegetable oil, which is bad for your health.

How to lower your ldl cholesterol

5. Cheese

Cheese is an excellent source of calcium and a vegetarian source of protein. Cheese has high amounts of cholesterol. 100 grams of cheese contains 123 milligrams of cholesterol. If you are a cheese lover, you can consume it in moderate quantities.

How to lower your ldl cholesterol

6. Ice Cream

Ice cream is the most loved dessert for people of all age groups but not for people with high cholesterol level. Ice creams are made of hydrogenated vegetable oils and full-fat milk, which may increase your cholesterol levels if you have them frequently.

How to lower your ldl cholesterol

7. Beef Liver

Meat liver contains 564 milligrams of cholesterol in 100 grams of serving. Beef liver has the highest cholesterol with 331 milligrams. So, decrease the intake of beef liver, as it may increase the bad cholesterol level in your blood.

How to lower your ldl cholesterol

8. Alcohol

Drinking alcohol increases the chances of developing bad cholesterol that in turn raises your blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases. Drink alcohol in moderate amounts to decrease the risk of developing cholesterol.

How to lower your ldl cholesterol

9. Refined Grain Products

White bread, bagels, pasta and tortillas are full of refined carbohydrates. These foods increase the bad cholesterol in the blood and eventually block the arteries. Reduce your intake of refined carbohydrates to improve your cholesterol levels.

How to lower your ldl cholesterol

10. Canola Oil

Canola oil is a hydrogenated oil which is full of trans-fat. This oil when consumed increases the bad cholesterol and lowers the good cholesterol. Avoid consumption of canola oil, corn oil, and soy oil to maintain your cholesterol levels.

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In cardiovascular risk assessment, the lipid profile also known as Cholesterol Test is a vital investigation and it has become one of the routine tests in medical checkups. The lipid profile checks the level of total cholesterol, high density lipoproteins, low density lipoproteins and triglycerides.

High density cholesterol is known as Good Cholesterol and high levels of reference are recommended as healthy. Low density cholesterol is considered as Bad Cholesterol and patients are advised to keep it at a lower level. There are certain foods to be avoided before a cholesterol test, which are found to be causing an alteration in the cholesterol test. The test can be performed as a fasting test or a non-fasting test. Evidence suggests that the fasting lipid test will overcome the effect of elevated post-prandial triglyceride level. Patients should be provided with adequate information on foods to avoid before a cholesterol test.

In a fasting lipid profile, all patients should fast for 12 hours prior to the test.

  • They must avoid eating any type of solid or semisolid food during these 12 hours. But it is important to state that the patient should continue drinking water and any medication he is on. After a meal, the calories of the foods are converted to triglycerides and they remain high in the blood for a significant number of hours. The need for fasting before the test is based on this concept.

When discussing foods to avoid before cholesterol test, it is also important to mention about the food habits to be followed one week before the test. Having a regular diet will allow the test to show the true values of the cholesterol levels in the body. But there are some food items which can elevate the blood cholesterol levels and those should be avoided one week before the test.

  • Foods which are rich in saturated fatty acids like beef, lamb, poultry, pork, butter and milk raise the LDL cholesterol levels and lowers HDL cholesterol levels.
  • Excessive consumption of full-fat cheese, egg yolks also should be avoided before a cholesterol test because they also contain a high amount of bad cholesterol level.
  • Plant fatty foods like palm oil, coconut oil and cocoa butter also tend to increase the bad cholesterol levels.
  • Foods which contain trans-fatty acids like fast food fries, cakes, cookies and pies also can increase the cholesterol levels. Because of that, patients are advised to avoid those types of foods, if they are planning to have a cholesterol test in one week time.
  • Patients are advised not to indulge too much of sweets like desserts, chocolates before the test if they don’t normally consume them, because triglycerides are sensitive to sugar-containing food items and excess calories.
  • Foods with high carbohydrate content like foods made with wheat flour ex:-white bread, instant rise and short eats are also considered as foods to avoid before cholesterol test because they also can raise the blood triglyceride level. Triglycerides can go high up in response to high-calorie intake because the body converts calories into triglycerides and stores them in the adipose tissues.
  • Clinicians also recommend that consumption of excessive alcohol prior to the test should be avoided because it also can dramatically raise the body triglyceride levels temporarily.

Food is not the only factor that can affect the body cholesterol level. Recent myocardial infarction (heart attack) or stroke can lower the cholesterol levels temporarily. Surgeries or ongoing infection can also lower the total cholesterol levels for a short period of time because these conditions increase the metabolic rate of the body. Certain medications like corticosteroids and hormones like estrogen can elevate the cholesterol levels and can give rise to falsely elevated cholesterol levels. Pregnancy is also a well-known condition which gives a falsely high cholesterol level as a result of physiological increment of the body cholesterol levels during the pregnancy period.

Generally, it is considered that every individual who is more than 40 years of age should undergo a routine lipid profile to exclude dyslipidemia. Because this age has been identified as the most vulnerable age of developing dyslipidemia and dyslipidemia related complications such as heart attacks and strokes.

Knowledge on food to avoid before cholesterol test is important for the patient to identify their true cholesterol levels of the body. Because there are many types of foods which can dramatically raise blood cholesterol levels. If the clinician can identify the true value of cholesterol in the individual the cardiovascular risk can be assessed and the future management plan of risk minimization can be made accordingly.

How to lower your ldl cholesterol

Dr. Chauturi is an experienced writer specializing in English language and Medical Sciences, and degree holder in Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery at University of Sri Jayewardenepura currently awaiting her internship.

How to lower your ldl cholesterol

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People with high cholesterol have twice the risk of developing heart disease as those with normal cholesterol, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Making changes to your diet is the first step in gaining control over your numbers, and that means limiting your intake of foods that raise cholesterol. Consult your doctor or dietitian to discuss your diet for lowering cholesterol.

Why Cholesterol Matters

Your body needs cholesterol to make hormones and vitamin D, but your body produces enough cholesterol to meet your needs. Saturated and trans fats in food increase cholesterol production in your liver and cause your body to produce too much cholesterol. This excess cholesterol travels in your blood and sticks to your artery walls, which leads to narrowing of the arteries, possible blockage and an increased risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

The cholesterol that sticks to your artery walls is known as the bad cholesterol, or LDL cholesterol. HDL cholesterol, on the other hand, is the good cholesterol that helps remove the LDL cholesterol from your arteries. Triglycerides are another type of fat found in your blood, and high levels are also associated with an increased risk of clogged arteries.

Reduce Saturated Fat Intake

Keeping your saturated fat intake to 5 percent to 6 percent of daily calories can help lower cholesterol, according to the American Heart Association. On a 2,000-calorie diet, that means no more than 100 calories to 120 calories from saturated, or 11 grams to 13 grams of saturated fat a day.

Foods high in saturated fat include fatty meats such as bacon and marbled red meats, chicken and turkey skin, butter, lard, cheese and whole and lowfat milk. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the top source of saturated fat in the U.S. diet is cheese from foods such as pizza.

No More Trans Fat

Trans fats naturally occur in some foods, such as meat and dairy, but most of the trans fats in your diet come from processed foods filled with hydrogenated oils. Trans fats are especially bad for people with high cholesterol because they not only raise your bad cholesterol but also lower the good cholesterol, says the AHA.

Keeping your daily intake of trans fat as low as possible is a recommendation for better cholesterol. Processed foods such as frozen pizza, baked goods, fried foods and crackers are the primary source of trans fats in the diet. Stick margarine and other spreads are also a source of trans fats. Read the food label and the ingredients list to help you identify trans fat-free foods. Avoid foods with the words “partially hydrogenated oils” in the ingredients list.

Cholesterol in Food

According to the Cleveland Clinic, cholesterol in food doesn’t have as much of an impact on the cholesterol in your body as previously believed. In 2015, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee relaxed recommendations to limit foods containing dietary cholesterol. Whether or not you need to continue to limit your intake of foods high in cholesterol, such as eggs and shellfish, depends on other factors that affect your health, such as diabetes, the Cleveland Clinic goes on to say. Talk to your doctor or dietitian about cholesterol in your diet.

Better Food Choices

While you should avoid the foods that raise your cholesterol numbers, you can replace those foods with healthier choices that may actually help improve your cholesterol. A healthy diet to lower cholesterol should include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lowfat dairy, skinless poultry, seafood, nuts, seeds and legumes.

The fiber in fruits, vegetables, grains, beans and nuts may help lower blood cholesterol. The AHA also recommends that you eat fatty fish, such as salmon and herring, twice a week for heart health.

How to lower your ldl cholesterol

Foods that make up a low cholesterol diet can help reduce high levels

Changing what foods you eat can lower your cholesterol and improve the armada of fats floating through your bloodstream. Adding foods that lower LDL, the harmful cholesterol-carrying particle that contributes to artery-clogging atherosclerosis, is the best way to achieve a low cholesterol diet.

Add these foods to lower LDL cholesterol

Different foods lower cholesterol in various ways. Some deliver soluble fiber, which binds cholesterol and its precursors in the digestive system and drags them out of the body before they get into circulation. Some give you polyunsaturated fats, which directly lower LDL. And some contain plant sterols and stanols, which block the body from absorbing cholesterol.

1. Oats. An easy first step to lowering your cholesterol is having a bowl of oatmeal or cold oat-based cereal like Cheerios for breakfast. It gives you 1 to 2 grams of soluble fiber. Add a banana or some strawberries for another half-gram. Current nutrition guidelines recommend getting 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day, with at least 5 to 10 grams coming from soluble fiber. (The average American gets about half that amount.)

2. Barley and other whole grains. Like oats and oat bran, barley and other whole grains can help lower the risk of heart disease, mainly via the soluble fiber they deliver.

3. Beans. Beans are especially rich in soluble fiber. They also take a while for the body to digest, meaning you feel full for longer after a meal. That’s one reason beans are a useful food for folks trying to lose weight. With so many choices — from navy and kidney beans to lentils, garbanzos, black-eyed peas, and beyond — and so many ways to prepare them, beans are a very versatile food.

4. Eggplant and okra. These two low-calorie vegetables are good sources of soluble fiber.

5. Nuts. A bushel of studies shows that eating almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and other nuts is good for the heart. Eating 2 ounces of nuts a day can slightly lower LDL, on the order of 5%. Nuts have additional nutrients that protect the heart in other ways.

6. Vegetable oils. Using liquid vegetable oils such as canola, sunflower, safflower, and others in place of butter, lard, or shortening when cooking or at the table helps lower LDL.

7. Apples, grapes, strawberries, citrus fruits. These fruits are rich in pectin, a type of soluble fiber that lowers LDL.

8. Foods fortified with sterols and stanols. Sterols and stanols extracted from plants gum up the body’s ability to absorb cholesterol from food. Companies are adding them to foods ranging from margarine and granola bars to orange juice and chocolate. They’re also available as supplements. Getting 2 grams of plant sterols or stanols a day can lower LDL cholesterol by about 10%.

9. Soy. Eating soybeans and foods made from them, like tofu and soy milk, was once touted as a powerful way to lower cholesterol. Analyses show that the effect is more modest — consuming 25 grams of soy protein a day (10 ounces of tofu or 2 1/2 cups of soy milk) can lower LDL by 5% to 6%.

10. Fatty fish. Eating fish two or three times a week can lower LDL in two ways: by replacing meat, which has LDL-boosting saturated fats, and by delivering LDL-lowering omega-3 fats. Omega-3s reduce triglycerides in the bloodstream and also protect the heart by helping prevent the onset of abnormal heart rhythms.

11. Fiber supplements. Supplements offer the least appealing way to get soluble fiber. Two teaspoons a day of psyllium, which is found in Metamucil and other bulk-forming laxatives, provide about 4 grams of soluble fiber.

Putting together a low cholesterol diet

When it comes to investing money, experts recommend creating a portfolio of diverse investments instead of putting all your eggs in one basket. The same holds true for eating your way to lower cholesterol. Adding several foods to lower cholesterol in different ways should work better than focusing on one or two.

A largely vegetarian “dietary portfolio of cholesterol-lowering foods” substantially lowers LDL, triglycerides, and blood pressure. The key dietary components are plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains instead of highly refined ones, and protein mostly from plants. Add margarine enriched with plant sterols; oats, barley, psyllium, okra, and eggplant, all rich in soluble fiber; soy protein; and whole almonds.

Of course, shifting to a cholesterol-lowering diet takes more attention than popping a daily statin. It means expanding the variety of foods you usually put in your shopping cart and getting used to new textures and flavors. But it’s a “natural” way to lower cholesterol, and it avoids the risk of muscle problems and other side effects that plague some people who take statins.

Just as important, a diet that is heavy on fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts is good for the body in ways beyond lowering cholesterol. It keeps blood pressure in check. It helps arteries stay flexible and responsive. It’s good for bones and digestive health, for vision and mental health.

image: Giovanni Boscherino |

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Video Transcript

ASHLEY REAVER: I am Ashley Reaver. I’m a registered dietician. I own a private practice in Oakland, California, and I teach at the University of California, Berkeley. I love being a dietician and helping people with their nutrition, because it is an opportunity three times a day, or 21 times a week, that you can directly impact someone’s life, and their long term health.

High cholesterol is something that is incredibly prevalent in the US. 95 million Americans have high cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death.

So I have oriented my career around cholesterol, because I don’t think that the resources are available to help this large population of people lower their cholesterol levels and prevent that cardiovascular disease.

I think in the US in particular, there is a humongous focus on body weight. And often, I find with my clients, even if they know the types of foods that they’re supposed to be eating for their cholesterol, they are distracted by the latest weight loss diet. You can lower your cholesterol and lower your body weight at the same time. Eating a diet that has more fiber in it, has more plants in it, has less fat in it, is also a diet that supports lowering your body weight.

Oftentimes, those diets that are weight loss diets, they are not supportive of lowering your cholesterol. Fad diets usually are increasing saturated fat and decreasing soluble fiber. A diet to lower your cholesterol really should be trying to increase that soluble fiber and drop that saturated fat.

Soluble fiber is the type of fiber that swells when it comes into contact with water. So oats, beans, whole grains, chia seeds. Those are things that really should be in your diet at least once every single day. The other big factor for cholesterol is lowering the intake of saturated fats. And saturated fats primarily come from animal products. And it absolutely doesn’t mean that every single person needs to be a vegan, that you can never have ice cream or steak again. It’s just balancing how they fit into your diet.

The key to a sustainable diet is not deprivation, it really is moderation. It’s finding a balance of including all of the foods that are going to be really important for your health, as well as dropping in, occasionally, the foods that maybe aren’t the best for your health, but maybe satisfy other needs that you have as well.

Fried chicken, as an example, is probably not something that you should have multiple days a week. But if that is your mom’s specialty, and when you go home, she loves preparing that all day, there has to be some sort of concession there where you can still get enjoyment out of your food without necessarily taking it to the extreme where it negatively impacts your health.

A healthy diet is one that you can really stick with for the rest of your life. It is not something that you start knowing that you can only do it for a short period of time. It’s one that satisfies you, not only nutritionally, but also emotionally and mentally.

Crash diets, or fad diets, promise very fast results, and you often do see results a lot faster. Always, though, the downside of any of those stricter types of diets is that if you can’t maintain the diet, you’re also not going to maintain the results of that diet. Eating more fiber and less saturated fat takes longer to lose weight, but it’s more of a sustainable weight loss.

Food is just fuel in your body. Stop putting so much emphasis on things being perfect. Good enough is really, really good enough. Taking a step in the right direction, making progress towards your goals, is also more important than not being able to be perfect, and then just deciding not to do something at all.

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Richard N. Fogoros, MD, is a retired professor of medicine and board-certified in internal medicine, clinical cardiology, and clinical electrophysiology.

Having high LDL cholesterol, otherwise known as “bad” cholesterol, is not good for your heart health. However, more studies are now finding that it isn’t only the quantity of LDL circulating in your blood—it’s the quality, too. The type of LDL in your body may influence your risk of having heart disease down the road. Small, dense LDL is a type of LDL cholesterol that is considered to be an emerging risk factor for cardiovascular disease.   It is smaller and heavier than typical LDL cholesterol and can increase your risk of developing atherosclerosis. It is thought that small, dense LDL contributes to atherosclerosis because it is small enough to penetrate the walls of arteries, is more susceptible to being oxidized, and stays in the bloodstream longer.  

How to lower your ldl cholesterol

Risk Factors

Anyone, ranging from young adults to the elderly, can be at risk of developing small, dense LDL particles. It appears that the development of small, dense LDL can be inherited. Additionally, lifestyle can also play an important role in the formation of small, dense LDL.

People at risk of developing small, dense LDL in the blood include:

  • Individuals who consume a high amount of carbohydrates in their diet  , especially refined sugars.
  • Those that consume trans fats in their diet.
  • Anyone who has uncontrolled diabetes.
  • Individuals who have been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome.  


Small, dense LDL is not routinely measured in a cholesterol test that you would get in your healthcare provider’s office. However, there are tests that can measure small, dense LDL, which include:

  • VAP cholesterol test
  • LDL gradient gel electrophoresis
  • NMR Lipoprofile test

These tests can be fairly expensive and are not available at all medical facilities.

Although high levels of small, dense LDL can increase your risk of heart disease, its ability to cause heart disease independently of other factors (such as diabetes and high trans fat intake) has not been fully established.

Routine testing for small, dense LDL is not currently being recommended.

Reducing the Formation of Small, Dense LDL

You can do some things to reduce the formation of small, dense LDL in the blood. Although you cannot do much if you have inherited raised small, dense LDL, you can make some changes to your lifestyle to lower your chances of developing this particle. Ways you can lower your risk of small, dense LDL cholesterol formation include: