Everyone over age 20 should have a cholesterol screening every 5 years. Those at high risk for heart disease should have more frequent screenings. If your total cholesterol level exceeds a level of 200, safely lowering cholesterol levels may be possible with exercise and dietary changes. While your doctor can help you set a target cholesterol number, there are changes you can make that can help lower cholesterol levels significantly in about 6 weeks.
ExerciseEven moderate exercise such as 45 minute daily walk can have a positive effect on increasing HDL (the "good" cholesterol) while lowering LDL ("bad") cholesterol. The key is to have a regular exercise schedule that includes physical activity at least 5 days a week.
Dietary ChangesOne of the keys to lowering cholesterol levels is to reduce levels of unhealthy saturated and trans fats and increase the sources of healthy fats in the diet. Canola oil and olive oil are good alternatives to vegetable oils, butter and stick margarine. Foods with healthy oils include salmon, tuna, trout and other fish that have cholesterol-lowering omega-3 fatty acids. Nuts such as walnuts are also a healthy choice.
Increasing soluble dietary fiber is also beneficial in not only lowering cholesterol but contain heart-healthy antioxidants. Good sources of fiber include beans, oats and products containing psyllium.