Because high cholesterol has long been associated with an increased risk of coronary artery disease, heart attacks and strokes, doctors often prescribe cholesterol-lowering medications known as statins. Designed specifically to reduce total cholesterol and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol within the body, statins generally do what they’re supposed to do. Unfortunately, they can also cause severe muscle spasms and life-threatening liver damage. In fact, one out of four statin users makes the decision to stop taking the medicine within six months. You can make some lifestyle choices that may lower your cholesterol levels to the point where you no longer need a statin.
Eat a balanced diet. There is a growing body of evidence to support the cholesterol-lowering qualities of foods from various food groups. Choose plenty of fish, legumes, fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Eat foods that are low in trans fats. Prepared foods are particularly high in trans fats that raise LDL and lower HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels. Although fast food restaurants have been notorious for serving foods that are high in trans fats, many are now cutting back. Read the menu carefully, and ask your server about cooking practices.
Limit your intake of saturated fats. Animal foods such as beef, pork, poultry and cream have significant amounts of saturated fats. Replace oils high in saturated fats, such as coconut and corn oil, with healthier ones like olive or canola oil.
Get plenty of exercise. Plan to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day, five to seven days a week. Incorporate physical activity into everyday life by taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or using a rake instead of a leaf blower.
Lose some weight. A good goal is a 10 percent reduction in body weight, which will decrease your LDL level. It’s important to continue eating right, however, or your LDL level will go back up.
Ask your doctor about nutritional supplements that can help lower cholesterol. While there are many false claims for various supplements, there is evidence that niacin, soluble fiber supplements and plant sterols can be effective for some people.