Here are some quick tips to lower cholesterol before a test:
- Avoid fatty foods and eat more fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains
- Exercise, even light walking can help
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated
- Avoid alcohol and sugary drinks
- Try supplements like niacin, fish oil or psyllium husk
- Get good sleep and reduce stress
Why Lower Cholesterol Before a Test?
Having high cholesterol levels in your blood increases your risk for heart disease and stroke. Doctors may order a cholesterol test as part of a routine checkup or if you have other risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
While lifestyle changes takes time to lower cholesterol, there are some temporary adjustments you can make the day before the test to get your numbers down. This can give you a better cholesterol reading and help avoid medication if your levels are borderline high.
How Cholesterol Testing Works
A cholesterol test, also called a lipid panel or lipid profile, measures the levels of total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, and triglycerides in your blood. It requires a blood sample, usually taken after a 9 to 12 hour fast.
Having optimal cholesterol levels is important for heart health. Here are the target numbers according to the American Heart Association:
|Cholesterol Type||Optimal Level|
|Total cholesterol||Under 200 mg/dL|
|LDL cholesterol||Under 100 mg/dL|
|HDL cholesterol||60 mg/dL or higher|
|Triglycerides||Under 150 mg/dL|
Your doctor will look at your test results and assess your risk factors before diagnosing high cholesterol or recommending treatment if your levels are concerning.
Diet Changes to Lower Cholesterol
One of the most effective ways to lower cholesterol quickly is to make strategic diet changes leading up to your test.
Here are some diet tips to lower cholesterol before the test:
1. Avoid Saturated and Trans Fats
Saturated fats raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels more than anything else in your diet. Sources of saturated fat include:
- Red meat and processed meat
- Full-fat dairy products like cheese, butter, ice cream
- Fried foods
- Baked goods
- Palm and coconut oils
Trans fats found in margarine, packaged baked goods, fried foods also raises bad cholesterol and should be avoided.
2. Eat More Fiber
Soluble fiber helps block cholesterol absorption from food. Getting more fiber, especially soluble fiber, for a few days before your test can lower cholesterol levels.
Good sources of soluble fiber include:
- Oats and oatmeal
- Citrus fruits
- Brussels sprouts
- Flax and chia seeds
Aim for at least 5-10 grams of soluble fiber per day from whole food sources.
3. Eat Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fats have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels. Excellent sources include:
- Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel
- Chia seeds and flaxseeds
- Soybean and canola oil
- Fortified foods like eggs, yogurt, juices
Aim for two 3-ounce servings of fatty fish per week. Vegetarians can get omega-3s from plant sources like flaxseeds, walnuts, and soy.
4. Load Up on Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories. They also contain antioxidants and phytonutrients that help protect heart health.
Fill half your plate with fruits and veggies at each meal in the days before your cholesterol test.
Some great choices include:
- Spinach, kale, broccoli, cabbage – get more greens
- Carrots, tomatoes, red peppers – go for a variety of colors
- Grapes, berries, citrus fruits, apples, bananas
- Sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, squash, beans
5. Choose Whole Grains Over Refined
Whole grains like oats, quinoa, brown rice, whole grain pasta and 100% whole wheat bread are high in fiber, which can help remove cholesterol from the body.
Refined grains like white rice, white pasta and white bread have had the fiber removed and cause spikes in blood sugar. Avoid refined grains a few days before your cholesterol test.
6. Avoid Excess Sugar
A high sugar intake increases triglyceride levels, a type of fat in the blood. Sugary foods like candy, baked goods, ice cream, and sugary drinks should be minimized.
Read nutrition labels and choose foods low in added sugars. Limit yourself to 25 grams of added sugar per day.
Instead, satisfy your sweet tooth with fresh fruits naturally high in fiber and antioxidants.
7. Stay Hydrated
Drink plenty of water and limit beverages like alcohol, juice, soda and sweetened coffee and tea. Sugary drinks can adversely affect cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Men should drink around 3 liters of fluid per day and women should aim for 2 liters daily. Water helps flush toxins and keeps your body functioning optimally.
Lifestyle Changes to Lower Cholesterol
In addition to diet, other lifestyle factors can impact cholesterol levels. Here are some changes to implement the day before your test:
Exercise is great for heart health and managing cholesterol. It helps raise HDL (good) cholesterol while lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Aim for 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise like brisk walking, cycling or swimming. Anything that gets your heart pumping faster counts.
Even a 30-minute walk the day before your test can help lower cholesterol numbers.
2. Reduce Stress
Chronic stress may increase cholesterol levels, especially LDL. Stress management tools like meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and getting enough sleep are important.
Practice relaxation techniques leading up to your test to keep stress hormones down. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night.
3. Avoid Alcohol
Drinking alcohol, especially heavy amounts, can increase triglycerides and certain types of cholesterol.
Men should limit alcohol to one or two drinks per day, and women one drink daily. Avoid all alcohol for 1-2 days before your cholesterol test.
4. Quit Smoking
Smoking damages blood vessels and makes cholesterol stick to artery walls, increasing risk of heart attack and stroke. Quitting smoking can raise good HDL cholesterol.
If you smoke, commit to being smoke-free in the weeks and months after your test to improve cholesterol long-term.
5. Lose Weight If Needed
Carrying excess weight forces the liver to overproduce LDL cholesterol. Losing just 5-10% of body weight can improve all your cholesterol numbers.
If overweight, eat a healthy diet and slowly increase physical activity. Consult your doctor before rapid weight loss.
6. Take Medications as Directed
Certain medications used to treat other health conditions can affect cholesterol levels. Don’t skip or adjust dosages before your test without your doctor’s approval.
Medications that impact cholesterol include:
- Statins to lower cholesterol production
- Beta blockers and diuretics for high blood pressure
- Oral steroids or corticosteroids
- Oral contraceptives
- Antivirals like ritonavir
Supplements to Reduce Cholesterol
Dietary supplements may help lower cholesterol over the short-term. Always check with your doctor before trying new supplements, especially if you take any medications.
Here are some supplements to ask about:
1. Soluble Fiber
Psyllium husk powder is a soluble fiber supplement shown to reduce both total and LDL cholesterol.
Mix 5-10 grams into water, juice, yogurt or oatmeal once a day for a few days before your test.
Also called vitamin B3, niacin can raise good HDL cholesterol by up to 35%. It may also lower triglycerides and LDL cholesterol.
The flush-free type of niacin is best. Take 500-2000 mg daily for 1-2 weeks under medical supervision.
3. Fish Oil
Fish oil supplements containing omega-3 fats EPA and DHA can reduce triglycerides by up to 30%. They may also slightly lower LDL.
Take 2-4 grams daily of fish oil capsules with meals for optimal impact.
Garlic may help lower total and LDL cholesterol by about 10-15% based on some research. It appears to work best for those with high cholesterol.
Find an odorless garlic supplement and take 600-900 mg daily in divided doses.
5. Plant Sterols and Stanols
Plant sterols and stanols block the absorption of cholesterol from food. They may lower LDL by around 5 to 15%.
Consume 2 grams per day in supplement form with meals.
Putting it All Together
Implementing diet, lifestyle and supplement strategies can optimize your cholesterol levels before your test.
Here’s a summary of what to do the day before your cholesterol test:
- Eat oatmeal with fruit for breakfast
- Snack on raw, mixed nuts and veggies
- Have a salad with beans or lentils and fatty fish for lunch
- Eat grilled chicken or salmon with quinoa and greens for dinner
- Avoid saturated fat, trans fats, sugary foods and refined carbs
- Drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol
- Take a brisk 30 minute walk
- Practice stress relieving activities before bed
- Take any supplements as directed by your healthcare provider
Remember, the impacts of diet and lifestyle changes are often short-lived. Focus on developing healthy, cholesterol-lowering habits that you can maintain long-term.
Making strategic diet and lifestyle changes the day before your cholesterol test can potentially give you a better reading.
Avoid foods high in saturated fat, trans fat, added sugars and salt. Load up on fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats from nuts, seeds and fatty fish.
Stay active, keep stress low and get enough sleep. Certain supplements may also aid in short-term cholesterol reduction when used properly.
Focus on developing patterns of healthy eating and living that support your heart all year round. Keep an open dialogue with your doctor to make a comprehensive cholesterol lowering plan that works for you.