Medication Versus Lifestyle Changes to Lower Cholesterol?

Almost half the adults in America have high cholesterol or borderline high cholesterol. The use of Statins (medication) has become a popular choice to lower cholesterol. Statins are also one of the most highly prescribed drugs in the world.

My own opinion along with the National Cholesterol Education Program recommends that you try to lower your cholesterol through lifestyle changes. Diet, exercise and weight loss should be tried first before taking medication.

I have been a personal trainer and gym owner for over 20 years and I have seen first hand how weight loss, a healthy diet and a regular exercise program can lower your cholesterol to an optimal level.

One of the biggest problems I’ve encountered with my clients who take medication to control their cholesterol is that they feel they can eat anything they want and not have to worry about their weight. They think the medicine is protecting them from poor health issues and other associated concerns.  Other clients I have keep their weight under control, eat right and exercise for the sole purpose of preventing their cholesterol from going to high.  This is the better approach with multiple benefits. Sometimes a little fear is a good motivator.

What is High Cholesterol?

Total Cholesterol

  • Optimal level is less than 200 mg/dL
  • Borderline high is 200 to 239 mg/dL
  • Considered high is anything over 240 mg/dL

HDL Cholesterol (good cholesterol)

  • Should be greater than 40 mg/dL for men
  • Should be greater than 50 mg/dL for woman

LDL Cholesterol (bad cholesterol)

  • Optimal level is less than 100 mg/dL
  • Near or above optimal LDL at 100 to 129 mg/dL
  • Borderline high LDL at 130 to 159 mg/dL
  • High LDL at 200 to 499mg/dL
  • Very high LDL at 500 mg/dL or above


  • Less than 150 mg/dL normal
  • Borderline high 150 to 199 mg/dL
  • High 200 to 499 mg/dL
  • Very high 500 mg/dL and above

How to Lower Cholesterol Without Drugs

  1. First, you have to lose weight. Even a modest amount of weight loss can lower cholesterol but your goal is to get your weight to an optimal level.
  2. Second, you have to increase your soluble fiber. An increase in soluble fiber can significantly lower cholesterol. The American Dietetic Association recommends 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day. Good sources of fiber are fruits, nuts, vegetables legumes and grains like oats, barley and rye.
  3. Third, you have to reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet and avoid trans fat.  Limit your saturated fat to no more then 7% of your calories and try to avoid trans fats altogether.
  4. Fourth, you need to start exercising.  Thirty minutes of aerobic exercise daily along with some resistance training a few days per week can lower LDL Cholesterol and raise HDL Cholesterol.
  5. Fifth, eat plant sterols, which are found in certain plants and are supplemented in orange juice, yogurt and dressings. Plant sterols inhibit the absorption of cholesterol.
  6. Finally, if you smoke you have to stop. Smoking can significantly lower HDL Cholesterol.

Some Supplements and Additional Nutrition to Lower Cholesterol

Eat nuts every day; almonds, and walnuts have healthy monounsaturated fat.  Cook with olive oil. Olive oil has antioxidants and healthy fats that can lower cholesterol.  Eat fish and omega-3 fatty acids. Research has supported their cholesterol lowering benefits. Eat slow cooked oatmeal every day. It has high amounts of soluble fiber, which will reduce the absorption of cholesterol. In addition, you might want to try taking Niacin.  Nicotinic acid (niacin) can lower total cholesterol by 15 to 20 percent, lower triglycerides by 20 to 50 percent and raise HDL by 15 to 30 percent. There are some side effects with Niacin; however, so you should discuss it with your doctor before taking it.

Give diet, exercise and lifestyle change a chance.  I know it’s easier and popular to just take the medication that your friends and half the world is taking and just forget about your cholesterol.  You owe it to yourself; however, to at least give diet and exercise a try.

Here is a link to the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes web site that can help you lower your cholesterol.

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Best _ Mike Cola

Fitness Contrarian

About Mike Cola

Mike Cola has well over 50,000 hours of hands-on personal training experience. He started his own personal training studio in1989, Mike Cola Fitness, which is located in New York.Connect with Mike @ Google+

5 Responses to “Medication Versus Lifestyle Changes to Lower Cholesterol?”

  1. excellent Mike

  2. Thanks for the comment.

    Best- Mike

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  4. Medication without lifestyle change could drive the problem underneath only to re-surface later.

    All medical problems should be viewed in a holistic concept for the treatment to be permanent.

  5. There are many people, including myself, who do everything right yet still have high cholesterol. I haven’t touched meat since 1985, I keep my weight down, exercise and eat what you recommend (and have been doing so for many years) and still have to take Lipitor to get my cholesterol in the normal range.