4. Lose weight

Carrying even a few extra pounds contributes to high cholesterol. Losing as little as 5 to 10 percent of your weight can improve cholesterol levels.

Start by evaluating your eating habits and daily routine. Consider your challenges to weight loss and ways to overcome them.

Small changes add up. If you eat when you're bored or frustrated, take a walk instead. If you pick up fast food for lunch every day, pack something healthier from home. For snacks, munch on carrot sticks or air-popped popcorn instead of potato chips. Don't eat mindlessly.

And look for ways to incorporate more activity into your daily routine, such as using the stairs instead of taking the elevator or parking farther from your office.

5. Drink alcohol only in moderation

Moderate use of alcohol has been linked with higher levels of HDL cholesterol — but the benefits aren't strong enough to recommend alcohol for anyone who doesn't already drink. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger.

Too much alcohol can lead to serious health problems, including high blood pressure, heart failure and stroke.

If lifestyle changes aren't enough ...

Sometimes healthy lifestyle changes aren't enough to lower cholesterol levels. Make sure the changes you make are ones you can continue to do, and don't be disappointed if you don't see results immediately. If your doctor recommends medication to help lower your cholesterol, take it as prescribed, but continue your lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes can help you keep your medication dose low.

June 19, 2015 See more In-depth