Ways to improve cholesterol without medication include reducing saturated fat, increasing healthy fats, increasing fiber, quitting smoking and exercising, according to WebMD. These healthy lifestyle choices help lower the bad low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels while increasing the healthy high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels.
Dietary changes often have a major impact on cholesterol levels. Cutting saturated and trans fats and processed foods can help with cholesterol, notes Harvard Medical School. Trans fats in particular may negatively affect heart health. Packages listing partially hydrogenated ingredients indicate the presence of trans fats.
Some saturated fats are acceptable, but polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are a healthier option, according to Harvard Medical School. These types of fats lower bad cholesterol levels. Oils made from plants such as olive, canola and grapeseed contain the healthier fats. Other sources include fish, nuts, avocados and seeds.
Whole grains and food high in fiber also help with cholesterol levels, advises Mayo Clinic. The soluble fiber in foods such as oatmeal and beans decreases LDL levels. Whole grains tend to have more fiber than highly processed grains.
Even moderate exercise five days per week helps improve cholesterol levels. Regular exercise may increase HDL levels by 10 percent, states WebMD. The physical activity also decreases the bad LDL levels. Smoking lowers the good cholesterol levels in the body, so kicking the habit can improve cholesterol and lower the risk of heart disease.