In many cases, lifestyle changes such as increasing exercise, changing diet and stopping smoking, are enough to lower cholesterol levels significantly, according to Mayo Clinic. However, some patients also require medication to reach their goal level.
When doctors treat high cholesterol, they set a target, notes WebMD. The target varies due to the number of risk factors in the patient's life. If the patient's risk factor is high, doctors often recommend an LDL count target of below 70. For patients with few other risk factors, the goal might be below 160.
Exercise helps patients to lose weight and reduce their LDL count, according to Mayo Clinic, but it is also beneficial even if the patient does not need to lose weight. Exercise helps to increase the HDL, or good cholesterol count. Patients should set a goal of at least 30 minutes of exercise daily but often need to work up to that goal. Exercising in 10-minute intervals, three times daily, adds up to the 30-minute goal.
The benefits of quitting smoking begin almost immediately, explains Mayo Clinic. Smokers may lower their LDL cholesterol by stopping tobacco use. Within 20 minutes of the smoker's last cigarette, his blood pressure drops. One day later, his risk of heart attack is lower. After a year, his risk of heart attack lowers by one-half. As time passes, his risk factors compare to those of nonsmokers.