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Take Steps to Reduce Cholesterol

Prevention

A healthier lifestyle, including aerobic exercise and a low-fat diet, can help reduce and prevent the bad effects of obesity and high cholesterol. It can  also reduce the risk of heart disease.

  • First, see your doctor. A simple blood test checks for high cholesterol. You may be asked to fast overnight before the test. Just knowing your total cholesterol level isn't enough. A complete lipid profile measures your LDL, total cholesterol, HDL (the good cholesterol), and triglycerides. The guidelines say healthy adults should have this done every 5 years.
  • Next, set dietary goals based on guidelines from the National Cholesterol Education Program.
    • Strive for daily intake of less than 7% of your calories from saturated fat and less than 200 mg of cholesterol from the food you eat.
    • You may eat up to 30% of your calories from total fat, but most should be from unsaturated fat, which doesn't raise cholesterol levels. Unsaturated fats can be found in foods like nuts, vegetable oil, olive oil, canola and sunflower oils, and avocados.
    • Add more soluble fiber (found in cereal grains, beans, peas, and many fruits and vegetables) and foods that contain plant stanols and sterols (included in certain margarines and salad dressings) to boost your LDL-lowering power. The best way to know what's in the foods you eat is to read the nutrition label.
    • Read food labels, and buy foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol. To help you know what to look for when grocery shopping, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has a partial shopping list for you that includes:
      • Breads - Whole wheat, rye, pumpernickel, or white
      • Soft tortillas - Corn or whole wheat
      • Hot and cold cereals - Except granola or muesli
      • Rice - White, brown, wild, basmati, or jasmine
      • Grains - Bulgur, couscous, quinoa, barley, hominy, or millet
      • Fruits - Any fresh, canned, dried, or frozen without added sugar
      • Vegetables - Any fresh, frozen, or (low-salt) canned without cream or cheese sauce
      • Fresh or frozen juices without added sugar
      • Fat-free or 1% milk
      • Cheese with 3 grams of fat or less per serving
      • Low-fat or nonfat yogurt
      • Lean cuts of meat - Eye of round beef, top round, sirloin, or pork tenderloin
      • Lean or extra lean ground beef
      • Chicken or turkey - White or light meat, skin removed
      • Fish - Most white meat fish is very low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol.
      • Tuna - Light meat canned in water
      • Peanut butter, reduced fat
      • Eggs, egg whites, egg substitutes
      • Low-fat cookies or angel food cake
      • Low-fat frozen yogurt, sorbet, sherbet
      • Popcorn without butter or oil, pretzels, baked tortilla chips
      • Margarine - Soft, diet, tub, or liquid
      • Vegetable oil - Canola, olive, corn, peanut, or sunflower
      • Nonstick cooking spray
      • Sparkling water, tea, lemonade
  • Manage your cholesterol. High cholesterol puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke. You can take an important first step toward a healthier heart by talking with your doctor about your cholesterol numbers. Your doctor will work with you to calculate your ten-year risk for serious heart problems. Then together, you and your doctor can plan to lower your numbers if needed to maintain a low cholesterol level. That plan will include healthy diet choices, exercise, and any needed medication.

 

WebMD Medical Reference from eMedicineHealth

Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on May 28, 2014

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

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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.

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