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If you've been diagnosed with high cholesterol, you're not alone. More than 100 million American adults have "borderline high" total blood cholesterol levels of 200 mg/dL and higher, according to the American Heart Association. And more than a third of those have "high" total blood cholesterol levels of 240 mg/dL or higher.

Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to lower your levels and reduce your risk for heart disease. And many of these strategies don't require a prescription. Be sure to talk to your doctor about incorporating the following cholesterol-lowering techniques into your routine.

1. Get checked.

According to the National Cholesterol Education program, all adults should have a fasting lipoprotein profile—a test that measures total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, and triglyceridesonce every five years. If you've been diagnosed with high cholesterol or have other risk factors for heart disease, you should be checked more often. Ask your doctor how frequently you should get tested, and be sure to stay on schedule.

2. Cut back on fats.

Reducing or eliminating saturated and trans fats can go a long way toward improving your cholesterol levels. To cut back on saturated fats, avoid meats, poultry skin, butter, and whole-milk dairy products, such as ice cream, yogurt, and cheese. To reduce trans fats, find healthy replacements for packaged baked goods, potato chips, fried foods, and fast foods.

3. Eat the right foods.

Heart-smart eating doesn't have to be boring. Start off your day with two glasses of sterol-fortified orange juice and a bowl of oatmeal or Cheerios. For lunch, prepare a veggie sandwich with olive oil and avocado on whole-grain bread. For a midday snack, enjoy a bowl of edamame. In addition, try to eat six small meals a day: A recent U.K. study found that people who ate six or more times a day had lower cholesterol levels than those who ate twice a day.

4. Slim down and shape up.

Being overweight is a significant risk factor for high cholesterol and heart disease. So, if you're overweight, talk to your doctor about weight-loss strategies, and be sure to incorporate regular cardiovascular activity into your daily routine. And don't forget strength-training: A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that strength-training exercises lowered total cholesterol 10 percent and LDL cholesterol 14 percent among women who worked out for 45 to 50 minutes three times a week.

5. Stop smoking.

According to the American Heart Association, tobacco smoke lowers HDL levels and is one of the six major risk factors for heart disease. The good news is that you can reverse the effects by quitting. After smokers quit, their HDL levels generally rise within weeks or months to levels that are equal to those of their nonsmoking peers. If you've tried to quit and been unsuccessful, talk to your doctor about smoking-cessation treatments.

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