How Long Does It Take to Lower Cholesterol? Time and Methods

Cholesterol levels may lower by about 6 weeks after starting treatment. However, the time it takes to lower cholesterol can depend on factors such as the treatment and your body’s response.

Cholesterol is a fatty, waxy substance found in the blood. Limited amounts of cholesterol are important for bodily function. Cholesterol helps build cells and substances such as vitamins.

High levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol, can build up in the blood vessels. This can block blood flow. Doctors refer to this as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack or stroke.

Because of the potential risks to cardiovascular health, it is important to keep LDL cholesterol levels low.

This article explains how long it may take to lower cholesterol, target cholesterol levels, and how to lower cholesterol.

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How long it takes to lower cholesterol depends on:

  • type of treatment
  • lifestyle
  • general health and underlying health conditions
  • following a treatment plan as prescribed
  • your body’s response to treatment

The British Heart Foundation suggests that it may take 6–8 weeks for cholesterol levels to settle to a steady, low rate in response to statin medications. Statins are medications that help lower LDL.

For one person in a 2019 case report, LDL cholesterol decreased 52.8%

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in 6 weeks as a result of lifestyle changes. These included:

  • following a diet prioritizing unsaturated fats and limiting saturated and trans fats
  • maintaining a moderate body weight
  • carrying out moderate levels of physical activity

The decrease in LDL cholesterol was enough to reach standard cholesterol ranges. Levels remained steady at a 6-month follow-up. However, this was a case report of just one person with moderately high cholesterol. Their experiences may not apply to everyone.

Talk with your doctor if you have questions about lowering cholesterol and the expected time frame.

Learn more about LDL cholesterol.

Generally recommended LDL cholesterol levels are less than 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). This is regardless of personal factors such as age. If your LDL levels are higher than 100 mg/dL, your doctor may diagnose you with high cholesterol.

However, there are different types of cholesterol with different target ranges and effects. For example, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol may improve

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the removal of LDL cholesterol in the body. Therefore, HDL cholesterol can be beneficial.

Because of this, clinicians take several values into account when checking cholesterol levels. A lipoprotein panel, a type of blood test, checks cholesterol levels.

The following table summarizes the target ranges for different types of cholesterol.

These ranges are estimated guides. Optimum cholesterol levels can vary per person. Underlying conditions may affect cholesterol levels.

High cholesterol may not cause any symptoms. Regular checkups with your doctor can help identify high cholesterol or monitor its progress.

Talk with your doctor for personalized advice about cholesterol levels.

Read more about the health risks of high LDL cholesterol.

Medications and lifestyle approaches may help lower cholesterol levels.

Medications that can help lower cholesterol include

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  • Statins: Statins may help prevent cholesterol from forming in the liver. They may help increase HDL cholesterol levels.
  • Cholesterol absorption inhibitors: These medications prevent the intestine from absorbing cholesterol from food.
  • Bile acid sequestrants: These may help the intestine remove more cholesterol, preventing buildup in the blood vessels.
  • PCSK9 inhibitors: These inactivate a specific protein in the liver, which can help lower LDL cholesterol.
  • Adenosine triphosphate-citrate lyase inhibitors: These block the liver from producing cholesterol.

Doctors may not prescribe medications to everyone. They may prescribe

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statins if you experience other risk factors for cardiovascular conditions. Risk factors include having other cardiovascular disease or smoking.

A heart-healthy diet may help lower LDL cholesterol or increase HDL cholesterol.

One example is the dietary approaches to stop hypertension (DASH) diet, which involves:

  • prioritizing these foods:
    • fruits
    • vegetables
    • whole grains
    • fat-free or low fat dairy products
    • fish and lean meats, such as poultry
    • beans and nuts
  • limiting these foods:
    • foods high in salt
    • saturated and trans fats, such as in fatty cuts of meat
    • foods with added sugar
    • highly processed foods

Read more about the DASH diet, including its effectiveness.

As the National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests, regular physical activity may help lower LDL and increase HDL cholesterol levels.

Generally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

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suggests that adults get:

  • 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week
  • two sessions of muscle-strengthening activity per week

However, your doctor can advise you on the level of physical activity that is appropriate for you.

Other approaches for lowering LDL cholesterol include:

  • not smoking
  • maintaining a moderate weight
  • managing stress, such as with meditation or therapy
  • getting good quality sleep
  • limiting alcohol

Angelica Balingit, M.D., has also reviewed the following frequently asked questions.

What reduces cholesterol quickly naturally?

A 2019 case report

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notes that cholesterol levels decreased to standard ranges within 6 weeks after approaches such as following a heart healthy diet and getting regular physical activity.

However, this was a review of just one person’s experiences. Not everyone may respond to the same treatments as quickly, or in the same way.

How long does it take for oatmeal to lower cholesterol?

How long it takes for oatmeal to lower cholesterol can vary.

A 2016 study suggests slightly improved LDL cholesterol levels within 30 days

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after eating 50–100 grams of oats daily. Decreases in total cholesterol and LDL reached about 10% after 1 year. A 2019 literature review suggests cholesterol-lowering effects of nutrients found in oats occurred after 5–6 weeks

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However, not everyone will experience health benefits from just eating oatmeal, as the decreases may not be significant enough. Always talk with a doctor before self-treating with food or making significant dietary changes.

Research suggests that LDL cholesterol may lower to a steady level by 6 weeks after starting treatment. Treatment can include medications, such as statins, or lifestyle approaches, such as a heart-healthy diet and regular physical activity.

However, the time it takes to lower cholesterol may depend on your underlying health and your body’s response to treatment.

Talk with your doctor about lowering cholesterol and how long it will take.