Blood / Hematology Cholesterol Nutrition / Diet Obesity / Weight Loss / Fitness

Lowering your cholesterol: How long does it take?

People who want to lower their levels of cholesterol are likely to find that it is more successful than seeking fast solutions to make permanent improvements to their diet and lifestyle.

Changes in lifestyles can often relatively easily reduce cholesterol levels. In as little as a few weeks, people can feel the results.

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

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a fatty, waxy substance that is produced by the liver. Cholesterol plays a vital role in the body in the development of cells and the degradation of certain forms of fatty acids. All the cholesterol it requires is produced by the body.

The other source of cholesterol is dietary cholesterol, originating from the foods that a person consumes. In animal foods such as meat, egg yolk, and full-fat dairy products, cholesterol occurs.

Eating these products regularly adds more cholesterol to the body and raises cholesterol levels in the blood.

In addition, some fats and oils can stimulate more cholesterol production in the liver, possibly increasing the levels even more.

Cholesterol levels

A survey in Circulation reports that in the United States , nearly 38 percent of adults have high cholesterol. High blood cholesterol was described in the report as levels over 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg / dl).

A person’s risk of heart disease and severe injuries, such as heart attack and stroke, is increased by high cholesterol levels.

Different variables play into the overall risk of disease of a person, but lowering high blood cholesterol may help reduce that risk.

How long does it take cholesterol to go down?

People who need to use medications to lower their cholesterol, such as statins, should see their cholesterol levels drop rapidly.

These drugs may work in a matter of weeks, and they generally work to a greater degree than changes in lifestyle.

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

It can help to reduce cholesterol by making simple changes to your diet and lifestyle.

Such modifications differ depending on how strictly a person adheres to their diet, as well as other variables, such as weight loss and exercise.

In as little as 4 weeks, some dietary changes may cause minor reductions in cholesterol. Many individuals on a heart-healthy diet plan would expect to see the difference after a few months.

How to lower cholesterol

Changes in diet and lifestyle and medications can all help lower levels of blood cholesterol.

Medications

Doctors often recommend medication to help lower blood pressure for people who have dangerously high cholesterol.

Generally, the standard treatment starts with statins. These medications help lower the amount of cholesterol the body produces. They also decrease inflammation around cholesterol plaques.

This decreases the cholesterol of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), increases the cholesterol of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), and reduces the levels of triglycerides.

Statins are the only form of cholesterol-lowering drug that research has specifically linked to a reduction in the risk of major incidents such as heart attack or stroke, the American Heart Association (AHA) also states.

That said, there are several side effects of statins, which could be worse at higher doses.

Depending on the underlying risk factors of the person, some other medications may be required as well. Other medicines can include:

  • Resins: These drugs stimulate the body to get rid of excess cholesterol.
  • 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 can also play a role.

An individual should speak to a doctor to find a prescription for cholesterol that works for them.

Dietary and lifestyle changes

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

Although they do 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 healthful diet and lifestyle plan.

Increasing intake of food from plants

Plant foods are high in vitamins and minerals, and they lack cholesterol.

Saturated fats, which may increase cholesterol in the body, are also lacking in most plant foods.

A study published in Nutrition Reviews noted that people who consumed vegetarian diets had substantially lower cholesterol levels compared with omnivores.

The authors also noted 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 percent in just 4 weeks.

These effects persist for the long term. A review in Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases estimated that the 10-year risk of coronary heart disease is reduced by about 13 percent by this type of diet.

To develop a tailored diet plan, people who need to reduce their cholesterol rapidly should work with a dietician.

Increase fiber intake

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

Fiber keeps the digestive system healthy and may help avoid the absorption of cholesterol by the body.

The AHA notes that a high-fiber diet alone can reduce the cholesterol levels of a person by as much as 10%.

Avoid trans fats

It is essential for cholesterol health to avoid trans fats from foods such as fried foods, shelf-stable foods, and baked goods.

Trans fats are processed chemically and raise the body’s levels of cholesterol.

Limit saturated fats

Saturated fats don’t directly contribute to cholesterol. However, they activate the liver to produce more cholesterol. This will add to cholesterol levels.

The AHA recommends that saturated fats be limited to 5-6 percent of the daily intake of calories. That would be 100–120 calories worth of saturated fats for a person who eats 2,000 calories a day.

Quit tobacco

Tobacco smokers typically have lower HDL cholesterol levels, whereas other risk factors, such as blood triglycerides, have elevated levels.

Quitting tobacco may help raise HDL cholesterol levels and balance total cholesterol levels.

Exercise

An important part of lowering cholesterol is regular exercise because it can help raise HDL cholesterol while lowering LDL cholesterol.

Exercising also helps to control other heart disease risk factors, such as assisting with weight loss and strengthening the heart.

It is worth noting 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.

Summary

People with high cholesterol are at an elevated risk of heart disease and significant heart events.

In order to manage dangerously high blood pressure, doctors may recommend medications such as statins. In as little as a few weeks, a person taking these drugs can see changes in their levels of cholesterol.

In order to support healthy cholesterol levels, doctors will also recommend dietary and lifestyle changes.

These changes can cause significant beneficial effects in a few weeks or months.

However, these changes are not a quick fix. Lasting changes in diet and lifestyle are the best way to reduce cholesterol levels over the long term.