How Quickly Does Cholesterol Levels Change?

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We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Cholesterol, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

What is cholesterol and how does it affect your health?

Cholesterol is an important molecule in the body. It is needed for many bodily functions and plays a key role in hormonal control. 

But sometimes cholesterol levels can get too high, which can cause health problems like cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.

Many people worry about their cholesterol levels. Others are told by their doctor to make lifestyle changes to lower their cholesterol. 

High levels of cholesterol can even lead to strokes or heart attacks. Lowering your cholesterol can be a positive first step toward overall health and long life. 

Eating well, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight are all key factors in reducing your total cholesterol. 

However, keep in mind that it takes time for lifestyle changes to affect your cholesterol levels. Read on to learn how to make positive changes and when to expect results. 

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is naturally produced by the body. It is a fatty substance that plays a significant role in helping the body produce hormones and digest certain fatty foods. There are two main types of cholesterol: 1. LDL, Low-density lipoprotein “bad” cholesterol, and 2. HDL, High-density lipoprotein or “good” cholesterol. 

High LDL cholesterol levels can be bad for your health. However, cholesterol itself is not harmful. The body needs cholesterol to carry out some key functions. 

The liver already makes all the cholesterol you need. Extra cholesterol comes from the foods you eat, leading to too much bad cholesterol. High-cholesterol foods include animal products like meat and dairy. 

Cholesterol tests measure two types of cholesterol

When getting tested for cholesterol, there are two main types doctors look for: 

  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is considered the “bad” kind of cholesterol. High LDL levels are linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, arteries that don’t work due to damage or blood clots, and other heart problems.

  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is generally considered the “good” form of cholesterol. This can help to remove LDL from circulation and return it to the liver. People with higher HDL levels have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

  • Total cholesterol tests show how much cholesterol you have in total, including HDL, LDL, and triglycerides.

  • Heart disease risk increases when a person has high LDL and possibly lower HDL cholesterol levels. 

What is a normal cholesterol level?

Generally, healthy cholesterol levels for adults are based on the following measurements:

  • Total cholesterol: less than 200 milligrams per deciliter

  • LDL levels: less than 100 mg/dL

  • HDL levels: higher than 40 mg/dL in men and 50mg/dL in women

  • Triglyceride levels: less than 150 mg/dL

Doctors will know what to look for when you have an appointment for a cholesterol test. However, it is still good to understand healthy cholesterol levels to keep track of your health and help you achieve lower cholesterol.

Reducing cholesterol: How long does it take?

For people hoping to reduce their cholesterol levels, it is important to remember that cholesterol levels won’t drop overnight. 

It takes time for the effects of lifestyle and diet changes to impact your cholesterol levels. So don’t feel let down if you don’t see immediate results. 

To achieve long-term cholesterol reduction, you must keep trying and be patient. Lifestyle changes may help lower cholesterol levels within a matter of weeks. However, it often takes longer, sometimes up to three months. Be patient, as better health can be a long journey.

If using statins, one type of cholesterol-lowering drug, expect a change in LDL levels between 2-3 months after starting treatment. 

Why might it be difficult to reduce cholesterol levels?

Some people may find it hard to reduce their cholesterol levels. This can be due to:

  • Age and sex

  • Family history

  • Major lifestyle changes

Not everyone is on a level playing field when it comes to cholesterol. For some, even making significant lifestyle changes can have little effect on high cholesterol levels. 

Factors like age, sex, and family history can impact cholesterol levels. These may decide how easily your body responds to lifestyle changes meant to lower cholesterol. Patience in these cases is important.

However, it may also be a good idea to discuss more detailed plans with your doctor.

This way, you can set long-term, realistic goals. Your doctor may also prescribe medication to help with your journey to lower cholesterol if other methods don’t achieve the required results.  

Also, some people struggle to make the necessary lifestyle changes to reduce cholesterol. Often, it can take a dramatic change in your diet and exercise routine to get on top of your cholesterol. 

This can be hard to get used to and keep up with, especially for those who have to break old unhealthy habits. It is important to keep positive and be kind to yourself when getting used to a new lifestyle. Results can take time!

Are some people less able to reduce cholesterol?

For some, high cholesterol is genetic. It can be hard to reduce your cholesterol levels if high cholesterol runs in your family. 

Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is a disorder that can make it difficult for your body to remove LDL. This is a problem because it may be left unnoticed for several years, allowing arteries to become clogged over time. 

Getting tested for cholesterol from the age of 20 onward is very important. Knowing your family history can help provide an early diagnosis of familial hypercholesterolemia — this can help you catch it before it becomes a serious health concern. 90% of people¹ with FH haven’t been diagnosed in the United States.

The best ways to reduce cholesterol

Create a regular exercise routine

Exercise is always a great way to improve your health. It can help lower cholesterol too. Exercise can burn extra calories and fat, lower blood pressure, and reduce cholesterol over time. 

Making exercise a habit will help you keep it up over time, so it’s important to establish a good exercise routine. Exercise can help you keep on top of your cholesterol long-term if you don’t give up. But don’t expect results straight away. 

Quit smoking

Quitting smoking can also help lower cholesterol and improve overall health.

Smoking can make your LDL cholesterol stickier, meaning it may stick to and clog your artery walls. 

On the same note, smoking can lower your HDL levels. This can be a problem, as HDL is involved in taking LDL away from the arteries. These mechanisms working together can make people more likely to have cardiovascular issues like stroke and heart attack. 

When people quit smoking, their HDL cholesterol levels can increase within 3-5 weeks. It provides fast results and can be a great way to begin the journey toward long-term cholesterol management and reducing heart disease risk. 

Manage your weight

Managing your weight can also have a major impact on your cholesterol levels. Being overweight or obese can affect the way your body deals with lipoproteins. These include both forms of cholesterol and triglycerides. 

Keeping a healthy weight is vital for better health in general. Plus, having a healthy weight involves being active and eating well, which is a key part of the journey toward lower cholesterol.

Consume less alcohol

Alcohol consumption can raise your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. This is because alcohol is broken down in the body to make these lipoproteins in the liver. When lipoprotein levels get too high, they can cause fatty liver disease and other cardiovascular problems.


Some people find that diet and exercise changes do not help them to get the cholesterol reductions they need to reach healthy levels. Some people respond differently to lifestyle changes, and results do not happen fast enough. Doctors may prescribe certain medications to help with the process. 

The most common cholesterol medications are as follows:

  • Atorvastatin 

  • Fluvastatin 

  • Lovastatin 

  • Pravastatin 

  • Rosuvastatin 

  • Simvastatin 

Your doctor will work out the best medication plan for you.

The lowdown

Cholesterol is not all bad. Your body naturally produces cholesterol, and achieving cardiovascular health is about balancing good and bad cholesterol.

It can take time for your cholesterol levels to drop, even when you make significant lifestyle changes. It is important to be patient. Persistence with healthy habits and exercise is key.

Expect changes in your cholesterol tests after three months if you start eating well, exercising regularly, and reducing stress.

Some people find it harder than others to reduce their cholesterol. Doctors can prescribe medication to help if you do not see results after three to six months.

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