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High Cholesterol (cont.)

Treatment Overview

The goal in treating high cholesterol is to reduce your chances of having a heart attack or stroke.

The two types of treatment for high cholesterol are:

  1. Lifestyle changes.
  2. Daily medicines.

Lifestyle changes

Your doctor may suggest that you make one or more of the following changes:

  • Build good eating habits.
  • Lose weight.
  • Get more active.
  • Stop smoking.

For more information, see Making Lifestyle Changes.


Many people try lifestyle changes first. But if lifestyle changes aren't enough to reach your cholesterol goal, you will need to take medicine too. Even if you take medicine for high cholesterol, keeping healthy lifestyle habits is still important.

Some people need to start taking medicine right away because their risk of heart attack is higher than average. Your doctor will base your need for medicine on your risk level.

Interactive Tool: Are You at Risk for a Heart Attack?Click here to see an interactive tool.

Once you know your risk for heart attack, you can learn more about treatment for your risk level.

You may also need treatment for other health problems, such as high blood pressure.


A heart-healthy lifestyle can help you prevent high cholesterol. This includes:

  • Eating a diet low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol.
  • Getting plenty of exercise.
  • Managing your weight.
  • Not smoking.

Heart-healthy diets include the Mediterranean diet and the American Heart Association diet recommendations. This chart compares several heart-healthy dietsClick here to view a form.(What is a PDF document?).

Some people may not be able to prevent high cholesterol with lifestyle changes. Family history or certain conditions that cause the body to make too much cholesterol can raise levels even with lifestyle changes. In these cases, medicine can help.

Remember that high cholesterol is just one of the things that increase your risk for heart attack and stroke. Controlling other health problems, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, can also help reduce your overall risk.


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