Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center - Health Library

Lifestyle Changes to Manage Lipid Disorders

Animation Movie AvailableRelated Media: Managing High Cholesterol: Cooking Healthy Meals

You may be able to improve your cholesterol and triglyceride levels by changing your lifestyle. The following lifestyle changes not only lower your cholesterol levels, but they also can lower your risk of heart disease.

General Guidelines

  Eat a Diet Low in Saturated and Trans Fat and Cholesterol

Saturated fats can increase bad cholesterol and are found in meats, some dairy products, baked goods, and deep-fried foods. Trans fats are created when vegetable oil is hydrogenated, it not only increases LDL levels but can also decrease HDL or good cholesterol levels. It can be found in commercial baked good and many fried foods. Dietary cholesterol does not play as much of a role in cholesterol levels in the blood as once thought

Certain diets like the Mediterranean diet, vegetarian or vegan diets are low in saturated and trans fat and cholesterol . They also tend to encourage healthier fat options like monounsaturated fats that may help you lower your bad cholesterol an increase your good cholesterol. Vegetarian and vegans diets are 2 examples that may be beneficial.

Follow the meal plan recommended by your doctor. A registered dietitian can also help to design an eating plan for you.

General dietary guidelines include:

  • Limit calories from saturated fat to fewer than 7% of your total calorie intake and cholesterol to less than 200 mg per day.
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables per day,.
  • Aim for plenty of fiber. Fiber which can be found in whole grain foods like oatmeal may help control cholesterol levels.
  • Eat oily fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids twice a week.
  • Limit excess carbohydrates.

When you shop, take some time to read the food labels for ingredient and nutrition information. Look for healthier options and those that do not have trans fats. If you need help getting started, check the ChooseMyPlate or American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics websites for easy ideas.

  Exercise Regularly

Exercise can help decrease LDL and increase HDL cholesterol levels. Choose exercises you enjoy and will make a regular part of your day. Strive to maintain an exercise program that keeps you fit and at a healthful weight. For most people, this could include walking or participating in another aerobic activity for 30 minutes every day. If you have a hard time starting out, try walking for 10 minutes at a time a few times a day.

Make sure to check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program. Some people with hyperlipidemia may already have atherosclerosis or heart disease, which increases the risk of a heart attack or death while exercising.

  Lose Excess Weight

Follow the dietary and exercise plan recommended by your doctor. To lose weight, consume fewer calories than you expend. To maintain a healthful weight, eat an equal number of calories to those you use. The best way to lose weight is to eat a balanced diet and get regular exercise.

  Drink Alcohol Only in Moderation

Alcohol can raise triglyceride levels. Moderation means one or fewer alcoholic beverages per day for women and two or fewer for men. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer or four ounces of wine or one ounce of 100-proof spirits.

  Quit Smoking

Smoking not only decreases the amount of good cholesterol in your blood, but it also increases your risk of heart disease.

  Treat Chronic Medical Conditions

Certain conditions are associated with an increased risk of lipid disorders. Work with your doctor to monitor your lipid levels and to manage your medical condition as much as possible.


How is high blood cholesterol treated? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: Accessed March 13, 2017.

Hypercholesterolemia. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated December 19, 2017. Accessed March 13, 2017.

Hypertriglyceridemia. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated February 2, 2017. Accessed March 13, 2017.

Prevention and treatment of high cholesterol. American Heart Association website. Available at: Updated August 30, 2016. Accessed March 13, 2017.

12/14/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance Ferdowsian HR, Barnard ND. Effects of plant-based diets on plasma lipids. Am J Cardiol. 2009;104(7):947-956.

Last reviewed March 2017 by Marcin Chwistek, MD  Last Updated: 3/15/2015