Whether you’ve been diagnosed with high cholesterol levels, or just want to take care of your health, lowering your cholesterol is a smart move. Having a high cholesterol level increases your risk of heart attack and cardiovascular disease. Take these three steps to reduce your cholesterol levels, or prevent yourself from ever developing the problem.

Stop smoking. If you quit smoking, you can improve your HDL cholesterol level – the “good” cholesterol that helps to lower “bad” cholesterol levels. But as you know, the benefits don’t end there. Your blood pressure will be lowered, you’ll be less likely to suffer a heart attack, and your risk of heart disease will be cut in half.

Lose weight. Excess weight is linked to high cholesterol. But if you lose just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight, you can significantly lower your blood cholesterol levels.

Start by analyzing your eating habits. Are you over over-eating, eating the wrong foods, or some of both? If you eat when you’re bored or lonely, try replacing that with a new habit. If you’re eating for emotional reasons, see a counselor and begin uncovering the root causes of your behavior.

If your excess weight is caused more by simply eating the wrong foods, talk to a nutritionist or weight loss physician about health eating habits. Old habits can be changed, and you can learn to love healthy foods by trying new recipes.

Exercise. Even for people who aren’t overweight, exercise can lower blood cholesterol levels. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise each day, even if you’re busy and have to break it up into intervals. Try going for a walk on your lunch break or after dinner, taking a bike ride with a friend, going for a hike with the family, or swimming laps at your local pool. Try partnering with a workout buddy to keep yourself motivated, and try some of the popular fitness apps for your smart phone to track your progress.

As always, check with your physician before beginning a weight loss or exercise program. If you’ve been diagnosed with high cholesterol already, don’t try these lifestyle changes in lieu of taking your prescribed medications, unless your doctor approves of your plans.