Skip to content

Cholesterol & Triglycerides Health Center

Select An Article
Font Size

Lower Cholesterol to Reduce Heart Disease Risk

(continued)

How Do I Find Out What My Cholesterol Numbers Are and What They Mean? continued...

Your numbers will help you and your doctor determine not only your risk for heart disease but also the best options for lowering it. For instance, an LDL level of 190 or above is considered very high, and your doctor will likely talk to you about taking medicine to lower it. And if your HDL level is 60 or above, excellent, your risk of heart disease is lowered. The goal is a lower LDL and a higher HDL to prevent and manage heart disease.

But remember, the cholesterol numbers are only one part of a larger equation. In addition to the numbers, the doctor will factor in your age, blood pressure, smoking history, and use of blood pressure medicines. All of these things plus whether you already have heart disease will give a picture of your chance of a major heart problem over the next 10 years. With that picture you and your doctor will develop a strategy to lower the risk. That strategy may involve lowering your cholesterol level with diet and possibly medicine.

What Affects Cholesterol Levels?

Lots of things can affect your cholesterol levels. They include:

  • Diet. Reducing the amount of saturated fat, trans fats, and cholesterol in your diet can help lower your blood cholesterol. Eating too much sugar and too many simple carbohydrates will also increase your cholesterol levels.
  • Weight. Being overweight is in itself a risk factor for heart disease. It also can increase your cholesterol. Losing weight will help lower your LDL, total cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels. At the same time it can help you raise your HDL.
  • Exercise. Regular exercise can lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol. You should try to be physically active for 30 minutes on most days.
  • Age and Gender. As you get older, your cholesterol rises. Before menopause, women tend to have lower total cholesterol than men. After menopause, though, women's LDL levels tend to rise.
  • Heredity. Your genes partly determine how much cholesterol your body makes. High blood cholesterol can run in families.
  • Medical conditions. Sometimes a medical condition may cause higher cholesterol levels. Examples include hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland), liver disease, and kidney disease.
  • Medications. Some drugs, such as steroids and progestins, can increase the "bad" cholesterol and decrease the "good" cholesterol.

 

 

What Drugs Are Used to Treat High Cholesterol?

Cholesterol-lowering drugs include:

  • Statins
  • Niacin
  • Bile-acid resins
  • Fibrates

Cholesterol-lowering drugs are most effective when combined with a low-cholesterol diet and exercise program.

Statins

Statins block the production of cholesterol in the liver. They lower LDL and triglycerides and can slightly raise HDL. These drugs are the first line of treatment for most people with high cholesterol. They are associated with a lower risk of heart disease, and for people with heart disease, statins reduce the risk of future heart attacks.  Side effects can include intestinal problems, liver damage, and, in a few people, muscle tenderness or weakness. If your doctor prescribes statins, you should discuss the percentage by which you should lower your cholesterol. Generally, it will be between 30% and 50%.

Next Article:

Lower your cholesterol numbers with must-read tips from WebMD direct to your inbox (emailed bi-monthly).

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Is Your Cholesterol Level Heart Healthy?
What is your LDL (low-density lipoprotein) level?

Get the latest Cholesterol Management newsletter delivered to your inbox!


or
Answer:
Desirable
0-199
Borderline
200-239
High
240+

Your level is currently

Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal.

Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is borderline high. If your LDL goes higher, your total cholesterol level could become Borderline High. Consider reducing the amount of foods you eat with saturated fats and increasing physical activity. If you get more exercise, your level of "good" HDL cholesterol may increase, which could also help to keep your levels of LDL and total cholesterol in check.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL. The HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL because the HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. But your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as statins. Following medication, dietary, and exercise instructions should result in improvements.

Your total cholesterol level is High, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

woman pulling supplements from shelf
Can they help lower yours?
bowl of yogurt with heart shape
What it can do for you.
 
woman exercising
14 practical tips.
chocolate glazed donut and avocado
What your levels mean.
 
Heart Foods Slideshow
Slideshow
Cholesterol Fact or Fiction
Quiz
 
Food & Fitness Planner
TOOL
Attractive salad
ARTICLE
 
Heart Disease Overview Slideshow
SLIDESHOW
worst sandwich slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
Fat Foods Fit Foods
SLIDESHOW
Bad Cholesterol
VIDEO
 

WebMD Special Sections