How to lower your cholesterol without drugs

You can begin to reduce your "bad" LDL cholesterol naturally by making a few simple changes in your diet.

Published: September, 2014

If your cholesterol is creeping upward, your doctor has probably told you that diet and exercise—the traditional cornerstones of heart health—could help to bring it down. And if you'd prefer to make just one change at a time to lower your cholesterol naturally, you might want to begin with your diet. A major analysis of several controlled trials involving hundreds of men and women found that dietary changes reduced LDL and total cholesterol while exercise alone had no effect on either. (However, adding aerobic exercise did enhance the lipid-lowering effects of a heart-healthy diet.)

The people in the studies followed a variety of diets, from Mediterranean to low-fat to low-calorie. However, the most effective diets substituted foods with the power to lower cholesterol for those that boost cholesterol. According to Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Brigham and Women's Hospital, eating with your LDL in mind doesn't have to be an exercise in self-deprivation. While you may have to say goodbye to a few snacks and fast foods, you can replace them with others that are equally satisfying. "You don't have to follow an all-or-nothing approach. It's really a matter of common sense," she says. She suggests a few ways to start getting your cholesterol under control and keep it normal.

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