How Can I Lower High Cholesterol?

Updated:Sep 30,2014
Too much cholesterol in the blood can lead to heart disease and stroke- America's No. 1 and No. 4 killers.

You can reduce your cholesterol by eating healthful foods, losing weight if you need to and being physically active. Some people also need to take medicine because changing their diet isn't enough. Your doctor and nurses will help you set up a plan for reducing your cholesterol- and keeping yourself healthy!


Most heart and blood vessel disease is caused by a buildup of cholesterol, plaque and other fatty deposits in a artery walls. The arteries that feed the heart can become so clogged that the blood flow is reduced, causing chest pain. If a blood clot forms and blacks the artery, a heart attack can occur. Similarly, if a blood clot blocks an artery leading to or in the brain, a stroke results.

What should I eat?

Focus on low-saturated-fat, trans fat-free, low-cholesterol foods such as these:
  • A variety of deeply colored fruits and vegetables (4 to 5 servings of each per day)
  • A variety of fiber-rich grain products like whole grain bread, cereal, pasta and brown rice. (6 to 8 servings per day, with at least half of the servings whole grains)
  • Fat-free, 1 percent and low-fat milk products (2 to 3 servings per day)
  • Lean meats and poultry without skin (choose up to 5 to 6 total ounces per day)
  • Fatty fish (enjoy at least 2 servings baked or grilled each week)
  • Nuts, seeds, and legumes (dried beans or peas) in limited amounts (4 to 5 servings per week)
  • Unsaturated vegetable oils like canola, corn, olive, safflower and soybean oils (but a limited amount of tub or liquid unsalted margarines and spreads made from them)
What should I limit?
  • Whole milk, cream and ice cream
  • Butter, egg yolks and cheese — and foods made with them
  • Organ meats like liver, sweetbreads, kidney and brain
  • High-fat processed meats like sausage, bologna, salami and hot dogs
  • Fatty meats that aren’t trimmed
  • Duck and goose meat (raised for market)
  • Bakery goods made with egg yolks, saturated fats and trans fats.
  • Saturated oils like coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil
  • Solid fats like shortening, partially hydrogenated margarine and lard
  • Fried foods
What are some cooking tips for me?

  • Use a rack to drain off fat when you broil, roast or bake.
  • Don’t baste with drippings; use wine, fruit juice or marinade.
  • Broil or grill instead of pan-frying.
  • Cut off all visible fat from meat before cooking, and take all the skin off poultry pieces. (If you’re roasting a whole chicken or turkey, remove the skin after cooking.)
  • Use a vegetable oil spray to brown or sauté foods.
  • Serve smaller portions of higher-fat dishes, and serve bigger portions of lower-fat dishes like pasta, rice, beans and vegetables.
  • Make recipes or egg dishes with egg whites or egg substitutes, not yolks.
  • Instead of regular cheese, use low-fat, low-sodium cottage cheese and other fat-free or low-fat, low sodium cheeses.
How can I learn more?
  1. Talk to your doctor, nurse or other healthcare professionals. If you have heart disease or have had a stroke, members of your family also may be at higher risk. It’s very important for them to make changes now to lower their risk.
  2. Call 1-800-AHA-USA1 (1-800-242-8721), or visit heart.org to learn more about heart disease.
  3. For information on stroke, call 1-888-4-STROKE (1-888-478-7653) or visit us online at StrokeAssociation.org.

We have many other fact sheets and educational booklets to help you make healthier choices to reduce your risk, manage disease or care for a loved one. Visit heart.org/answersbyheart to learn more.

 

Knowledge is power, so Learn and Live!

Do you have questions or comments for your doctor or nurse?

Take a few minutes to write your own questions for the next time you see your healthcare provider. For example:

What about eating out?

Why are weight control and physical activity important?

©2012, American Heart Association

Multi-language Fact Sheet Topics

Heart-related Conditions
What is Angina?
What is an Arrhythmia?
What Is Atrial Fibrillation?
How Can I Lower High Cholesterol?
What Do My Cholesterol Levels Mean?
What Are High Blood Cholesterol and Triglycerides?
What Is High Blood Pressure?
How Can I Reduce High Blood Pressure?
High Blood Pressure and Stroke
What Is Diabetes and How Can I Manage It?
How Can I Live With Heart Failure?
What Is Heart Failure?
What Is a Heart Attack?
How Will I Recover From My Heart Attack?
What Are the Warning Signs of Heart Attack?
What Are Heart Disease and Stroke?
What is Metabolic Syndrome?
What is Peripheral Vascular Disease?

Stroke, Recovery and Caregiving
Hemorrhagic Stroke
Ischemic Stroke
What Are the Warning Signs of Stroke?
Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Stroke
Stroke Diagnosis
Changes Caused by Stroke
Emotional Changes After Stroke
Feeling Tired After a Stroke
Stroke and Rehabilitation
Stroke Family Caregivers
How Should I Care for Myself as a Caregiver?

Treatment, Tests and Procedures
What is Cholesterol-Lowering Medicine?
What is High Blood Pressure Medicine?
What Are Anticoagulants and Antiplatelet Agents?
What Is an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator?
What Is a Pacemaker?
What Is Coronary Angioplasty?
What is a Stent?
What is Coronary Bypass Surgery?
What is a Coronary Angiogram?
How Can I Recover From Heart Surgery?
What is Carotid Endarterectomy?

Healthy Lifestyle and Risk Reduction
How Can I Manage My Weight?
How Can Physical Activity Become a Way of Life?
Why Should I Be Physically Active?
How Do I Follow a Healthy Diet?
Why Should I Limit Sodium?
How Do I Read "Nutrition Facts" Labels?
How Can I Quit Smoking?
How Can I Manage Stress?
How Can I Make My Lifestyle Healthier?
How Can I Monitor My Cholesterol, Blood Pressure and Weight?