Five ways to improve your heart’s health and lower your cholesterol

December 15, 2023

Your heart works hard, beating over 100,000 times per day to pump blood and nutrients throughout your body. Cholesterol, a waxy type of fat in the body, can either support or hinder your heart’s health, depending on a few factors. That’s why taking care of your heart—including managing your cholesterol levels—is important for your overall health and well-being. High cholesterol can put you at risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and other heart-related health complications.


To help lower these risks, it’s important to know when to get your cholesterol levels checked and incorporate healthy habits into your everyday routine. Here are five lifestyle changes you can make to boost your heart’s health.


  1. Know your numbers: First things first, you need to understand cholesterol’s role in your body and know where your cholesterol levels stand before you can start improving them.

    Cholesterol is carried through the bloodstream by lipoproteins, which transport and deliver fat molecules throughout the body. The two most commonly known lipoproteins are low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. LDL is known as “bad” cholesterol because it can build up on artery walls and increase your risk for heart attack and stroke, while HDL helps remove excess cholesterol from the arteries and is considered “good” cholesterol. 

    With a simple blood test, you can measure your total cholesterol levels along with LDL, HDL and triglycerides (another fatty substance in the blood). Labcorp OnDemand’s Heart Health Test also measures your body’s level of C-reactive protein (CRP), a substance made by the liver in response to inflammation. Altogether, these numbers can help you and your healthcare provider determine if you need to make lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of heart-related conditions. Knowing your numbers is key for monitoring your heart’s health over time. Reach out to your healthcare provider to determine how often your cholesterol levels should be checked.

  2. Focus on heart-healthy foods: One of the most effective ways to lower cholesterol is through your diet. Try to limit saturated and trans fats, which are found in many processed and fried foods. Instead, consume more unsaturated fats from plant sources like avocados, nuts, seeds and olive oil. Fill your plate with fiber-rich fruits, vegetables and whole grains, which can help reduce LDL cholesterol levels. And be sure to choose lean protein sources like fish, poultry without the skin, beans and lentils.

  3. Get moving: Regular physical activity not only helps you maintain a healthy weight, but studies show that it can also boost HDL cholesterol and lower LDL levels. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. This could include brisk walking, swimming, cycling or any activity that gets your heart pumping. Even simple things like taking the stairs or parking farther away can help you accumulate more movement throughout your day.

  4. Manage stress: Chronic stress takes a toll on your heart’s health by raising blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Carve out time each day to prioritize self-care through relaxing activities like yoga, meditation, deep breathing or journaling. Staying active can also help relieve stress, so try to squeeze in a walk or any other exercise when you’re feeling overwhelmed. And remember, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it; having a strong support system can help you better cope with life’s challenges.

  5. Drink alcohol in moderation: While some studies suggest red wine specifically may benefit heart health, most experts agree that alcohol in general should be consumed in moderation. Heavy drinking can contribute to high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides and other cardiovascular risks. For healthy adults, moderate drinking means up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.

Take control of your heart health

The heart works tirelessly to keep your body healthy. Do your part to support your heart by adopting lifestyle habits that lower cholesterol and support its function. Focus on heart-healthy foods, stay active and don’t forget to get your heart health numbers checked to track your progress.