How long does it take to lower cholesterol? If your cholesterol numbers are creeping up, and your doctor is making worrying noises as they review your lab work, it’s only natural to wonder how quickly you can get those numbers to drop. Fortunately, there are several proven strategies you can use that should help your cholesterol numbers shift in the right direction.
How Long Does It Take to Lower Cholesterol?
According to Healthline, people with high cholesterol can often trigger a substantial drop in their numbers with just lifestyle and dietary changes. Many can see results in a few weeks. Others may need a few months. As with the majority of diet-based trends, men will generally see results sooner than women. What about people who use medication to help bring their cholesterol numbers down? How long does it take to lower cholesterol with medication? Again, results should be evident in a matter of weeks.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance that is produced by the liver. It travels through the bloodstream with lipoproteins and plays a crucial role in cell formation and the breakdown of certain types of fatty acids. It is also found in certain foods, including meats, eggs, and dairy products.
As WebMD explains, there are actually two types of cholesterol that doctors routinely measure when they order bloodwork. Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, is often dubbed the bad cholesterol. When this type of cholesterol gets too high, it has an unpleasant tendency to form deposits along the body’s blood vessels. This can raise your risk of heart attack and stroke. Therefore, a high number of LDL cholesterol is a serious cause for concern. This is especially true if your triglycerides, which are yet another kind of fat that can cause problems in excess, are also high. Meanwhile, high-density lipoprotein, or HDL, is the white-hat of cholesterols. Referred to as good cholesterol, it sweeps in to escort excess cholesterol away from the tissues and blood vessels to the liver, where it can be safely broken down and disposed of. High levels of HDL aren’t a problem. In fact, they may have protective qualities.
How can you lower your cholesterol?
What can you do to lower your cholesterol? While it’s important to discuss your specific situation with your doctor, Mayo Clinic offers some useful suggestions:
- Eat a heart-healthy diet. What does a heart-healthy diet look like? Reduce saturated fats, which are often found in red meats and full-fat dairy. Eliminate trans fats. Instead, eat foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Heart-healthy diets also include lots of soluble fiber because fiber helps prevent cholesterol from entering the bloodstream. If you want to add more protein to dishes, consider using whey protein. Studies suggest that it lowers LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and blood pressure while also delivering many of the benefits associated with dairy products.
- Quit smoking. Stopping smoking lowers your cholesterol levels and your blood pressure. It also improves your lung function and reduces your cardiovascular risks.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being even a few pounds overweight can boost your cholesterol numbers, so shedding any excess weight can help to bring your numbers in line.
- Exercise. Exercising to reach and maintain a healthy weight can help you boost your HDL numbers, increasing your store of protective good cholesterol.
- Drink alcohol in moderation. Some studies have tied drinking alcohol with higher HDL levels, but the results aren’t enough to outweigh the corresponding risks of higher blood pressure and cardiovascular problems. If you choose to consume alcohol, do so in moderation.
- Take cholesterol medication, if prescribed by your doctor. While diet and lifestyle changes will be enough for many people, they won’t work for everyone. If medication is necessary to tame your cholesterol, take it as directed. Combining medication with a healthy lifestyle will allow you to keep your cholesterol numbers and your medication dosage low.
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