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Why Should You Care About Cholesterol?

High cholesterol puts your health at risk. It can cause heart disease and heart attacks. Heart disease is the number one killer in the US. High cholesterol doesn’t cause symptoms. Lots of people don’t know that their cholesterol is high. High cholesterol can happen at any age. It affects both men and women.

What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a bit like fat. It’s made in the liver. Some foods contain cholesterol, too. Your body needs some cholesterol. You use it to make hormones, vitamin D, and other things. But you can have too much cholesterol. It can build up on the walls of some blood vessels, called arteries. They can get narrow. Narrowed arteries slow or block blood flow to the heart. Blood brings needed oxygen to the heart. If your heart doesn’t get enough blood and oxygen, then you may have chest pain. If an artery in the heart gets blocked, then you can have a heart attack.

Take steps to manage high cholesterol
Your doctor can check your cholesterol levels. This involves a blood test. If your cholesterol is high, then your doctor may tell you to:

  • Follow a heart-healthy diet.
  • Be more active.
  • Lose weight.
  • Take medicine.




Know what your cholesterol numbers mean. Take steps to improve your numbers. This can lower your risk for health problems.

Cholesterol can build up in arteries that lead to the heart. They may narrow or close. This can cause a heart attack.





Know Your Numbers

If you’re age 20 or older, then have your cholesterol checked.
Get this blood test at least once every five years. It shows your levels of:

Total Cholesterol

Amount of all cholesterol in your blood.
The higher the number, the greater your heart disease risk. Your doctor may want you to lower this number.

LDL (bad) Cholesterol

Main source of cholesterol that blocks arteries. Your doctor may want you to lower this number.

HDL (good) Cholesterol

Prevents cholesterol from building up in arteries. Your doctor may want you to raise this number


Fats carried through the bloodstream. High levels may be a sign of a problem that plays a role involved in heart disease. Your doctor may want you to lower this number.

Your doctor may suggest lifestyle changes to treat high cholesterol. These can include diet and exercise. You may need drugs, too. Ask your doctor about your LDL, HDL, and triglyceride goals. Work with him or her to reach them.


Compare your cholesterol test results to those below:*
Note: Your goals may differ, if you have other heart disease risk factors. Ask your doctor what your numbers should be.

Total Cholesterol

What It Means

Less than 200



Somewhat high

240 and above


LDL Cholesterol

What It Means

Less than 100

Very good




Somewhat high



190 and above

Very high

HDL Cholesterol

What It Means

60 and above

May protect against heart disease

Less than 40

Major risk factor for heart disease


What It Means

Less than 150



Somewhat high



500 and above

Very high

Control Your Risk Factors

A number of things affect your cholesterol levels. These are called risk factors. Some you can’t control. But some you can.

You can’t control:

  • Age. As you age, cholesterol levels tend to rise.
  • Family history. Genes play a part in how much cholesterol your body makes. High cholesterol can run in families.

You can control:

  • Your weight. Excess weight can raise your LDL (bad) level. Losing weight can raise your HDL (good) level. Plus, it can raise your total cholesterol.
  • How active you are. Being active can help lower your LDL level. And it can help raise your HDL level. Plus, it can help you to lose weight. Lack of exercise can cause weight gain.
  • What you eat. The foods that you eat will affect your cholesterol.

As a rule, the higher your LDL and the more risk factors you have, the greater your chance for health problems. These risk factors can affect your LDL:


  • Smoking
  • Low HDL level
  • Age (men age 45 or older; women age 55 or older)
  • High blood pressure
  • Family history of early heart disease

Talk with your doctor. Ask what you can do to help your cholesterol levels.

Manage High Cholesterol
Lifestyle changes may help treat high cholesterol. You should:

  • Eat a heart-healthy diet. Eat low-fat, high-fiber foods.
  • Watch your weight. Lose weight, if you need to. This can help lower LDL (bad) levels. Weight loss is even more important, if you have:
  • High triglycerides
  • Low HDL (good) levels
  • A large waist. This means more than 40 inches for men and more than 35 inches for women. If you carry your weight in the waist, then you’re at risk for heart disease.
  • Be active. Plan for 30 minutes of activity at least on most days. It’s a good idea for anyone. Plus, it can help raise HDL and lower LDL levels.
  • Take medicine. Your doctor may prescribe medicine to help control your cholesterol. Take it as your doctor tells you to.


Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet

Your doctor may tell you to change your diet. Eating right may help you to reach your cholesterol goals. A heart-healthy diet includes:

Get the facts on fats
Know which fats raise LDL levels and which don't. This can help you to make good food choices. Look for foods that:

  • Lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, and/or
  • Raise HDL (good) cholesterol.

They can help you to eat right for your heart.









Lose Weight If Needed

Your doctor may want you to lose weight. Your meal plan should help you to lose one to two pounds a week. Ask your doctor for a plan that’s right for you.

Write down what and how much food that you eat each day. Also, write down how much exercise that you get. This will help you to stay on track.
If it’s hard to lose weight on your own, then talk with your doctor.

He or she can suggest a weight-loss program. This may help you to stick with a plan. Or, your doctor may want you to see a dietitian. This is someone who helps people who need special diets. He or she can make a food plan that’s right for you. The plan can help you to meet your weight-loss and cholesterol goals.



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