OHSU

Cholesterol-Lowering Agents

Cholesterol and other fats can't dissolve in your blood. To travel to your cells, they use special carriers called lipoproteins. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is often called "the bad kind." When you have too much LDL cholesterol in your blood, it can join with fats and other substances to build up in the inner walls of your arteries. The buildup is called plaque. When you have too much plaque, the arteries can become clogged and narrow, and blood flow is reduced.

If the buildup of plaque ruptures (bursts or breaks apart), a blood clot may form at this location or a piece may break off and travel in your bloodstream. If a blood clot blocks the blood flow to your heart, it causes a heart attack. If a blood clot blocks an artery leading to your brain, or inside your brain, it causes a stroke.

There is also a "good kind" of cholesterol called high-density lipoprotein (HDL). It carries harmful cholesterol away from your arteries and helps protect you from heart attack and stroke. It's better to have a lot of HDL cholesterol in your blood.

How Can I Lower the Bad Cholesterol in My Blood?

Cut down on foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol. These include:

  • Fatty meats, including poultry (chicken or turkey) with skin
  • Butter, cheese and whole-milk dairy products (ice cream, yogurt, sour cream)
  • Egg yolks
  • Shellfish (shrimp, lobster, crayfish)
  • Fats that are solid at room temperature, including animal fat, butter, margarine and lard

Eat more foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fiber. These include:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains and grain products
  • Beans and peas
  • Fat-free and low-fat milk products (ice cream, yogurt, sour cream)
  • Lean meats, poultry (chicken and turkey) without skin
  • Fatty fish, such as tuna and salmon, and other types of fish
  • Nuts and seeds in small amounts

Lose weight if you need to. Exercise for at least 30 minutes most days of the week or every day. Ask your doctor about medicines to lower your cholesterol. These are a good option for some people, but not everyone.

Controlling your cholesterol fact sheet

What do my cholesterol levels mean?