People who make diet and lifestyle changes as well as using medication may see lower cholesterol levels within a few weeks.

Lifestyle changes can sometimes lower cholesterol levels relatively quickly. People may notice the effects in as little as a few weeks.

However, to see a lasting change in their cholesterol levels, a person will need to stick to their lifestyle adjustments and any medications that a doctor recommends to control the issue.

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People who need to use medications such as statins to lower their cholesterol should see their cholesterol levels fall quickly. These medications may work in a matter of weeks, and they generally work to a larger degree than lifestyle changes.

However, because diet affects the levels of cholesterol in the body, doctors commonly recommend that people make changes to their diet and lifestyle in addition to taking medications.

Making simple changes to the diet and lifestyle can help reduce cholesterol. These changes vary depending on how strictly a person adheres to their diet. Other factors, such as exercise and reaching a moderate body weight, also play a role.

Some dietary changes may cause minor reductions in cholesterol in as little as 4 weeks. Most people can expect to see the difference in a few months by following a heart-healthy diet.

Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance that the liver produces. In the body, cholesterol plays a roll in cell function and the breakdown of some types of fatty acids. The body can create all the cholesterol it needs.

Dietary cholesterol is the other source of cholesterol, coming from the foods a person eats. Cholesterol appears in animal foods, such as meat, egg yolk, and full fat dairy products.

Regularly eating these foods adds more cholesterol to the body and raises the levels of cholesterol in the blood.

Additionally, some fats and oils may stimulate the liver to make more cholesterol, potentially increasing the levels even more.

Research by the American Heart Association (AHA) shows that almost 38% of people aged 20 years or older in the United States have at least a borderline high total cholesterol level between 200 and 239 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl). The report also defines high blood total cholesterol as a level equal to or over 240 mg/dl.

High cholesterol levels increase a person’s risk of heart disease and serious events, such as heart attack and stroke.

Various factors play into a person’s overall risk of disease, but lowering high blood cholesterol may help reduce that risk.

Dietary and lifestyle changes and medications can all help lower blood cholesterol levels.


For individuals who have a dangerously high cholesterol level, doctors will often recommend medication therapy to help bring down the cholesterol level. Depending on whether a person has other health conditions, they may also need a medication to lower their blood pressure.

The standard cholesterol-lowering treatment generally begins with statins. These drugs help decrease the amount of cholesterol that the body makes. They also reduce inflammation of blood vessels with cholesterol plaques.

This reduces mainly low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and total cholesterol levels, raises high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and may lower triglyceride levels.

The AHA also notes that statins are a cholesterol-lowering drug class that research has directly linked to a reduction in the risk of major cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke.

However, statins have some side effects, which may be more serious with higher doses.

A person may require some other medications as well, depending on the person’s underlying risk factors. Other medications may include:

  • Bile acid resins: These drugs help the body get rid of excess cholesterol through the intestines into the stool.
  • Selective cholesterol absorption inhibitors: These help prevent the body from absorbing cholesterol.
  • PCSK9 inhibitors: These lower LDL cholesterol by binding to proteins in the liver.
  • Fibrates: These drugs target and lower triglycerides in the blood.

Supplements such as niacin and omega-3 fatty acids may also play a role.

A person should consult a doctor to help them find a medication for lowering cholesterol that works for them.

Dietary and lifestyle changes

Dietary and lifestyle adjustments are key to making lasting changes in cholesterol levels.

Although they might not produce results as quickly as medications do, a person may notice their cholesterol levels drop in just a few weeks or months if they stick to a healthy diet and lifestyle plan.

Increase intake of plant foods

Plant foods are rich in vitamins and nutrients, and they do not contain cholesterol. Most plant foods also do not contain saturated fats, which may increase cholesterol in the body.

A 2017 study found that the people who ate vegetarian diets had significantly lower cholesterol levels than the participants following omnivorous diets.

The authors also note that some targeted diets using plant foods might cause stronger effects. For example, a diet rich in soluble fiber, plant sterols, and vegetable protein sources, such as soy and nuts, reduced LDL cholesterol by an average of 28.6% in just 4 weeks.

These effects continue over the long term. A 2018 study estimates that this type of diet reduces the 10-year risk of coronary heart disease by about 13%.

People who need to reduce their cholesterol quickly can work with a dietitian to create a targeted diet plan.

Increase fiber intake

While adding plant foods to the diet increases fiber intake naturally, it may also be helpful to take a fiber supplement or over-the-counter fiber drink to support the body.

Fiber keeps the digestive system healthy and may help prevent the body from absorbing cholesterol.

The AHA notes that a high fiber diet alone may reduce a person’s cholesterol level.

Avoid trans fats

Avoiding trans fats from foods such as fried foods, shelf-stable foods, and baked goods is important for cholesterol health.

Trans fats are chemically processed and raise cholesterol levels in the body.

Limit saturated fats

Saturated fats in excess can disrupt cholesterol activity in the body. They can also adversely affect the liver’s production of cholesterol. Saturated fats may ultimately add to high cholesterol levels.

The AHA recommends limiting saturated fats to 5–6% of daily calorie intake. That would be 100–120 calories worth of saturated fats for a person who eats 2,000 calories per day.

Quit tobacco

Individuals who smoke tobacco generally have lower levels of HDL cholesterol and elevated levels of other cholesterols, such as blood LDL levels.

Quitting smoking may help bring up levels of HDL cholesterol and balance the total cholesterol level.


Regular aerobic exercise is an important part of lowering cholesterol, because it may help bring up HDL cholesterol while lowering LDL cholesterol.

Exercise also aids in managing other risk factors for heart disease by helping reach a moderate body weight and strengthening the heart.

It is important to note that these are long-term changes rather than quick fixes for high cholesterol. However, people who stick to these changes may see noticeable results for longer periods.

Individuals with high cholesterol are at increased risk of heart disease and major heart events.

Doctors may recommend medications, such as a statins, to manage high cholesterol levels. A person taking these drugs may notice changes in their cholesterol levels in as little as a few weeks.

Doctors will typically also recommend dietary and lifestyle changes to support healthy cholesterol levels. These changes may cause noticeable beneficial effects in a few weeks or months.

However, these changes are not a quick fix. The best way to reduce cholesterol levels over the long term is to make lasting changes to the diet and lifestyle.