Can You Lower Cholesterol Without Medication?

March 29, 2022 10:26 am Published by

man taking medicine.

If you’ve been diagnosed with high cholesterol, you aren’t alone. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 38% of American adults has high cholesterol. What happens if you fall into that group? Does that automatically mean you’ll need to take medication to lower your cholesterol? That’s a common question, so we’re taking a deep dive into how you can lower cholesterol without medication.

What Cholesterol Is

Most people think cholesterol is a harmful substance, but in reality, the body needs it to produce hormones, build cells, synthesize vitamin D and help you digest food.

The liver produces cholesterol for these essential tasks, so cholesterol itself isn’t a bad thing. But too much cholesterol can be.

Cholesterol is a waxy substance, and when too much builds up in the blood, it can become part of what’s known as plaque, which sticks to the walls of blood vessels and can eventually block or limit blood flow.

What’s Considered “High” Cholesterol?

Having too much cholesterol can increase your risk for heart attack and stroke, so knowing your levels is the first step in keeping it under control. A basic screening, known as a lipid panel, can tell your medical provider your total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and triglycerides.

Having this screening performed regularly is important, since high cholesterol doesn’t cause noticeable symptoms. Healthy cholesterol is defined as:

  • Total cholesterol between 125 and 200 mg/dL
  • LDL cholesterol less than 100 mg/dL
  • HDL cholesterol 40 mg/dL or higher for men and 50 mg/dL or higher for women

If your LDL levels are too high and HDL levels too low, your medical provider will talk through ways to improve them and protect your heart.

In some cases, particularly if you have other heart health risk factors like diabetes, your provider may recommend you see a cardiologist.

Ways to Lower Cholesterol Without Medication

If you’re diagnosed with high cholesterol, you can take steps to get your numbers to a healthy range.

Unless your cholesterol is at a dangerous level or you have other health issues, your medical provider will likely first recommend lifestyle changes to help lower your numbers naturally. Looking to lower your cholesterol? Start here:

  • Aim for a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for both high cholesterol and more serious heart health conditions, so losing weight is a good place to begin. Dropping as little as 5% to 10% of your body weight has been associated with a drop in total and LDL cholesterol.
  • Change up your eating habits. Make heart-healthy fruits and vegetables the foundation of your diet. Increase soluble fiber by eating whole grains, oats and beans. Soluble fiber has been shown to help lower total and LDL cholesterol. Include small amounts of healthy fats in your meals and snacks, for example, those found in olives, avocado, nuts and fatty fish. Limit your intake of fried foods, processed meats, red meat and baked goods, which contain saturated fats and high levels of dietary cholesterol.
  • Get moving. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week, which breaks down to slightly more than 20 minutes per day. While workouts are great, simply being more active throughout the day also helps.
  • Find healthy ways to manage stress. Stress is a fact of life, but too much stress can be dangerous for your heart. Look for healthy ways to manage stress. Exercise, meditation and hobbies are all good ways to start.
  • Don’t smoke. If you do smoke, talk with your provider about a strategy for quitting. When you quit smoking, your HDL cholesterol increases, which helps reduce levels of harmful LDL cholesterol.


Wondering about your risk factors for heart disease and other heart health issues? Magnolia Regional Health Center offers screenings to gauge your heart health, including a cholesterol panel.

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This post was written by Magnolia Regional Health Center

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