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If you’ve just received the bad news from your doctor that your cholesterol numbers are not quite ideal, you’re probably making plans to remedy the situation as quickly as possible, At least, you should be, because high cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease.

The good news is that getting your cholesterol numbers into better shape doesn’t have to be difficult or take a long time. In fact, with the right lifestyle changes and, in some cases, medication, you may see significant improvement within just a couple of months.

One of the first things you should do, if you haven’t already, is talk to your doctor about medication.

Particularly if you are at high risk for heart disease, he or she may want you to take a cholesterol-lowering drug.

Lifestyle modifications are important, but if your doctor feels that lowering your cholesterol fast is important to your health, statins or other drugs are the best way to do it. You should always follow your doctors advice – but always ask if you can make lifestyle changes before you reach for the medication.

Even if you do start a medication, you should still make changes to your lifestyle because these changes will improve your numbers even more. Exercising regularly is one of the most effective ways to raise your “good” HDL cholesterol and lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol. Even a 45-minute walk most days is enough to make a healthy difference.

You can also make changes to your diet such as avoiding saturated fat – for example, by replacing butter, vegetable oil, or shortening with canola or olive oil.

Eating more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables also up your intake of cholesterol-lowering fibre, as do dried beans and psyllium products.

Fish, fish oil, nuts, and green tea should also be parts of your diet, as they all have cholesterol-lowering properties.

Finally, if you do smoke, quit.

If your cholesterol is too high, it’s time to get serious about kicking the habit. Not only does smoking lower good cholesterol, but it’s also a major risk factor for heart disease, meaning that high cholesterol is even more dangerous for smokers than for non-smokers.

Making these changes can make a huge difference in your heart health and your quality of life, so don’t wait to get started.

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