Healthbeat

3 diet changes to help lower cholesterol levels

If you have high cholesterol (a total cholesterol level of 240 milligrams per deciliter of blood or above), taking steps to lower it can greatly reduce your chances of having a heart attack. For every 10% drop in your cholesterol level, your heart attack risk falls by 20% to 30%.

There are several steps you can take to lower your cholesterol level, like losing weight if needed, being more active, and choosing healthy foods. Here are three simple steps toward a healthier, cholesterol-lowering diet:

  • Choose healthy fats. Avoid saturated fats, which increase unhealthy LDL levels, and steer clear of trans fats, which both raise LDL and lower protective HDL. Instead, substitute healthier unsaturated fats found in fish, nuts, and vegetable oils.
  • Go with whole grains. Whole-grain breads, pastas, and cereals help prevent a blood sugar roller coaster and make you feel full longer. Many of these foods contain fiber that can help lower LDL levels.
  • Make other healthy choices. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Ideally substitute these for processed foods and sweets. Choose fat-free milk instead of whole milk. Opt for low-fat yogurt and pick brands that are not loaded with sugar.

If lifestyle changes don't get your cholesterol to a healthy level, ask your doctor if a cholesterol-lowering drug makes sense for you.

For more on how to reduce your health risks from heart disease to dementia, buy Men's Health Fifty and Forward, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.