Can You Lower Your Cholesterol In Just 7 Days? Our Doctor Explains

Keeping your cholesterol in check is critical in reducing your risk of heart disease. What's frustrating is that your cholesterol begins creeping up as you age, even if you do your best to eat a healthy diet. Around certain holidays, you might find yourself splurging on foods that can raise cholesterol levels, such as red meat, full-fat dairy, and baked goods. You might regret these indulgences if you know you have your annual trip to the doctor to check your cholesterol.

You can lower your cholesterol in 7 days by doing a water fast using electrolytes and herbal teas, says longevity physician Dr. Scott Noorda at Resolve Medical in a Health Digest exclusive interview. "Fasting can help reduce cholesterol levels by restricting calorie intake and forcing the body to utilize stored fat, which can lead to a reduction in blood lipid levels."

However, this strategy might not be effective for everyone, according to a 2021 study in Nutrients. People who completed a 7-day fast saw increases in total cholesterol and triglycerides with no changes in LDL cholesterol. Their "good" HDL cholesterol also saw a slight decrease. Noorda says you can adopt other strategies to help lower your cholesterol in the long term.

Ways to quickly lower your cholesterol

Triglycerides aren't talked about as much as cholesterol, but high triglyceride levels can also increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. Dr. Scott Noorda says you can quickly lower triglyceride levels in your blood through dietary changes. "Triglycerides go up with carbs and sugar, so cutting out all sugar and sweeteners and switching to a low-carb diet (particularly processed carbs) can also make a big change fast for some people," Noorda explains. Limiting alcohol and sugary packaged foods can also lower your LDL cholesterol.

You'll also want to add foods with plant sterols and fiber found in whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables. These nutrients cling to the cholesterol in your gut to reduce how much cholesterol is released into your bloodstream. Noorda says eating fish high in omega-3, such as salmon and mackerel, can increase your HDL cholesterol to help clear the LDL from your bloodstream. Taking high-quality fish oil supplements could also improve your HDL cholesterol.

You'll also boost your HDL cholesterol by exercising. "We tell our patients to shoot for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. Research shows that many different types of exercise can help support healthy cholesterol levels, so we often recommend starting with something that you enjoy enough to continue and then, once that is an established habit, encourage you to add weight training and some aerobic component, like daily walks."

Think long-term when it comes to lowering cholesterol

Dr. Scott Noorda says it's better to adopt a long-term strategy rather than rely on quick fixes when lowering your cholesterol. "Building new habits one at a time is a much safer and sustainable way to reach health goals." He adds that you and your doctor should track your nutrient levels, especially when you make serious changes to your diet.

He also suggests paying attention to the side effects of certain medications. "As a brain health-focused physician, I am careful to watch for side effects from cholesterol-lowering medications, as some research indicates that they may contribute to cognitive decline," he says. Statins have side effects including headache, dizziness, muscle pain, and sleeping problems.

A 2021 study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that people taking statins to lower their cholesterol did not have a higher risk for dementia or mild cognitive impairment than people who didn't take statins. Even though some research has shown statins might cause a short-term yet reversible cognitive impairment in a small number of people, statins might also be linked to a lower risk of dementia, according to a 2018 review in Translational Neurodegeneration.