Having high cholesterol levels is a risk factor for heart attack or stroke. However, a person can take measures to lower their cholesterol, such as making lifestyle and diet changes and taking medication.

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that helps a person’s body to build cells and make vitamins and hormones. However, too much cholesterol can cause issues.

A person may be able to treat high cholesterol levels by changing their diet, exercising more frequently, taking medications, using natural remedies, and more.

This article examines seven different treatments for high cholesterol.

A person carrying a bag of vegetables that are good for high cholesterol treatment.Share on Pinterest
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There are two types of cholesterol — high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. People sometimes refer to HDL as “good” cholesterol and LDL as “bad” cholesterol.

This is because LDL cholesterol can line the arteries and cause them to harden, making it more difficult for blood to flow through the body. This is called atherosclerosis.

However, HDL cholesterol can transport LDL cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver. From there, the liver can break down the LDL and release it from the body.

A person should also be conscious of triglyceride levels. This is the most common type of fat in the body, and it helps store excess energy from food.

However, high triglyceride levels alongside high LDL levels and low HDL levels can cause fat to build up in the arteries. This can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke.

High cholesterol has few symptoms. Therefore, the Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC) urge Americans to know the risk factors so they can take precautions to lower their risk.

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Find out more about cholesterol.

Sources of cholesterol

The liver produces all of the cholesterol a person’s body needs.

The rest of the cholesterol in a person’s body is dietary cholesterol. A person obtains this from the food they eat. Animal products, such as meat and dairy, contain cholesterol and can increase a person’s cholesterol levels.

These foods also contain saturated fats and trans fats. This may result in the body producing too much LDL cholesterol, which can lead to heart disease and stroke.

A healthcare professional can measure a person’s cholesterol levels by analyzing a blood sample.

The below table shows what experts consider to be optimal cholesterol levels.

However, many factors, such as a person’s age, weight, sex, and lifestyle, contribute to this. Therefore, a person should always consult a doctor about what levels are healthy for them.

The measurement mg/dl signifies that cholesterol is measured in milligrams per deciliter.

TypeOptimal amount
LDL cholesterol about 100 mg/dl
HDL cholesterol 40 mg/dl in males
50 mg/dl in females
Triglycerides<150 mg/dl
Total cholesterolabout 150 mg/dl

The food a person consumes may affect their overall cholesterol levels. Changing a person’s diet can help to treat high cholesterol levels.

Foods to avoid

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), reducing a person’s intake of trans and saturated fats can help to lower LDL cholesterol levels.

The AHA recommends that people reduce their consumption of:

  • red meat
  • full-fat dairy products
  • sugar-sweetened beverages
  • sweet, high fat foods, such as doughnuts, cakes, and cookies
  • hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils
  • fat or shortening
  • fried foods

Foods that are good for cholesterol

The AHA recommends foods high in unsaturated fat or omega-3 fats for those with high cholesterol.

There are many foods that will help a person to lower their intake of saturated and trans fats, including:

A person can also reduce their intake of saturated or trans fats by opting for low fat dairy products and plant-based foods instead of full-fat dairy products and meat.

However, some plant-based foods do contain saturated fats. These include coconut and coconut products and palm oil.

Learn more

Find out more about cholesterol and diet.

According to the AHA, aerobic exercise can raise a person’s HDL cholesterol. The elevated HDL levels may, in turn, help to reduce a person’s LDL cholesterol levels.

The organization recommends doing at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week.

Helpful aerobic exercises include:

A 2017 study found that aerobic exercise had a positive effect on people’s lipid levels, reducing the risk of coronary artery disease.

Achieving and maintaining a moderate weight can reduce and prevent high cholesterol levels.

A 2021 study showed that in people who have obesity or overweight, achieving and maintaining a moderate weight may lower the risk of developing heart disease.

According to the CDC, limiting alcohol as part of a healthy lifestyle may help reduce and prevent high cholesterol.

When a person drinks alcohol, their liver breaks it down and turns it into cholesterol and triglycerides. When a person drinks more alcohol, their levels of triglycerides and cholesterol rise.

The best approach to reducing high cholesterol is avoiding alcohol completely, but occasional moderate drinking may be acceptable.

The CDC defines moderate alcohol consumption as:

  • Females: One drink or less in 1 day.
  • Males: Two drinks or less in 1 day.

According to the CDC, smoking can increase triglyceride levels and decrease a person’s HDL levels.

Additionally, it may increase the buildup of cholesterol in the blood vessels while also causing them to narrow. This means it can worsen the effects of atherosclerosis due to LDL cholesterol, raising the risk of heart disease and stroke.

The CDC recommends that people quit smoking. Doing so improves a person’s health and reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer, lung disease, and more.

Some people may find that lifestyle changes are enough to reduce their cholesterol levels.

However, a doctor may prescribe medication to some people if they are not responding to other treatments. Medication can help to lower their levels and reduce the risk of heart problems.

A person should always discuss side effects and safety with a doctor before taking any new medications.


Doctors commonly offer statins to people with high cholesterol. Statins may lower the risk of stroke or heart attack.

The treatment is effective and side effects are usually mild. A doctor may prescribe statins to someone based on their risk of developing a more serious disease.

Examples of statins include:

Cholesterol absorption inhibitors

Cholesterol absorption inhibitors (CAIs) prevent the intestine from absorbing cholesterol.

This class of drugs, such as ezetimibe, is the most common non-statin medication that doctors prescribe to those with high cholesterol.

Bempedoic acid

Also known as adenosine triphosphate-citrate lyase (ACL) inhibitors, these drugs block the production of cholesterol in the liver.

Doctors usually prescribe this medication to adults with heart disease and other specific heart conditions who need to lower their LDL cholesterol levels.

A person will normally have to make lifestyle changes and take statins alongside these drugs to further reduce LDL cholesterol.

PCSK9 inhibitors

These drugs lower LDL by inactivating a protein in the liver. This helps to lower LDL cholesterol. A person can administer this medication by injection.

Medications for high triglycerides

  • Fibrates are a type of medication that lower triglycerides. The medication also mildly reduces LDL levels.
  • Niacin (nicotinic acid) is a B vitamin that lowers triglycerides and mildly reduces LDL levels. A doctor may have to monitor a person’s liver function if they take this medication.
  • Omega-3 fatty acid supplements contain fish oil high in omega-3. Alongside dietary changes, this medication can lower triglyceride levels.

Some natural remedies may help lower a person’s cholesterol levels. However, a person should always consult a healthcare professional before using any natural remedies.

Ground flaxseed

A 2015 study examined the effects of ground flaxseed on people who had peripheral vascular disease, a type of heart disease.

The researchers found that when the patients took ground flaxseed alongside cholesterol-lowering medications, it helped to lower their overall cholesterol levels.

Green tea

Consuming green tea may lower person’s total cholesterol levels and LDL levels considerably, according to a 2020 study.

However, researchers could not determine the optimal amount of green tea a person should drink to reduce their LDL cholesterol levels.

Garlic and lemon juice

According to a 2016 study, garlic and lemon juice may be effective at lowering cholesterol.

The study looked at people with moderately high cholesterol levels. It found that people who consumed 20 grams of garlic with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice per day experienced a significant decrease in their LDL and total cholesterol levels compared with those who did not have garlic and lemon juice.

Plant stanols and sterols

Plant stanols and sterols occur naturally in plants. According to a 2018 study, consuming more plant stanols and sterols may help lower a person’s cholesterol levels.

Foods that contain stanols and sterols include:

  • grains
  • seeds
  • nuts
  • vegetables
  • legumes
  • fruit
  • vegetable oil and vegetable oil-based margarine

The study found that plant sterols and stanols can help to lower LDL, particularly if a person consumes them as part of a meal twice per day.

Several high cholesterol treatments are available for those who may need to lower their cholesterol and reduce their risk of heart disease or stroke.

High cholesterol treatments include lifestyle changes such as increasing exercise and following a healthy diet. A person may also choose to quit smoking or limit alcohol.

Medication may also be very effective for a person with high cholesterol. A doctor may prescribe a person medication after trying other treatment methods.

Due to high cholesterol having few symptoms, the CDC urges Americans to understand the risk factors in order to take precautions to lower their risk.