Lifestyle Modifications for Lipid Disorders

If you have mild to moderately high lipid levels, your doctor may recommend trying lifestyle modifications for a few months before considering medication. Sometimes, lifestyle changes alone are enough to improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels. 

Other times, your doctor may recommend lifestyle modifications in addition to medical therapy. 

NYU Langone specialists recommend the following strategies to improve lipid levels.

Eat Healthfully

Consuming a diet low in saturated and trans fats is key for reducing cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Saturated fats are found in meat, butter, cheese, and whole milk products. Trans fats are often ingredients in baked goods, crackers, and chips. Many packaged goods now list trans fat content, making it easier to monitor intake. 

Cutting back on carbohydrates—especially those that contain white flour, such as pasta and white rice—can also help lower triglyceride and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels. Avoiding sugary drinks, such as fruit juices and soda, can help, too. 

Following a Mediterranean diet—which emphasizes fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats from olive oil, nuts, and fish—may help improve your lipid levels and lower cardiovascular risk. 

Exercise Regularly

Physical activity stimulates your muscles, which trigger the breakdown of triglycerides so your body can use them as energy instead of storing them as fat. It can also raise levels of the “good” cholesterol, HDL. Getting regular exercise also helps you lose weight, which can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease

Your doctor can help you identify simple ways to incorporate more exercise into your daily routine, such as running errands by foot or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. You may also consider joining a gym or taking yoga classes.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Excess fat around your waist releases hormones and proteins that raise your LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, blood pressure, and risk of diabetes. Losing weight—even just a few pounds—can help lower your LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. When you eat less, you absorb less fat and cholesterol from foods and reduce your body’s fat stores.

Our registered dietitians and nutritionists can create a weight-loss plan tailored to your needs. The specialists at NYU Langone’s Weight Management Program can give you the tools and support you need to attain and maintain a healthy weight.

Consume Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Consuming omega-3 fatty acids, a specialized type of polyunsaturated fatty acids, may lower triglycerides. These substances are found in fatty fish, such as salmon. 

The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fatty fish per week for a heart-healthy diet. For some people, doctors may recommend fish oil supplements to help lower triglycerides. Talk to a doctor before you begin taking any supplement.

Research studies are examining whether a combination of omega-3 fatty acids and the cholesterol-lowering medications called statins can reduce the incidence of cardiovascular events. NYU Langone’s Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease is a site for one such study.

Avoid Alcohol

In some people, moderate alcohol intake can raise levels of “good” HDL cholesterol, but its benefit on overall health is unclear. In others, it can increase triglyceride levels and trigger pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas. Depending on your diagnosis, your doctor may recommend avoiding or limiting your alcohol intake.

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