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Cholesterol & Triglycerides Health Center

Understanding Cholesterol Problems: Prevention

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Prevent high cholesterol and lower your odds of getting heart disease with these tips:

  • Keep your weight in check. If you're not sure whether your weight is in a healthy place, ask your doctor. If losing some weight would help, ask your doctor for advice on what types of activities you can do.
  • Limit cholesterol to no more than 300 milligrams each day. Read food labels to see how much is in packaged foods.
  • Make sure no more than 35% of your daily calories come from fat.
  • Avoid all trans fats, as well as junk food.
  • Exercise three to four times a week. Push yourself, if you can, but moderate exercise is better than none at all.
  • Quit smoking.

How to Follow a Low-Cholesterol Diet

Make meat lean. Cut back on red meats that are high in saturated fat and cholesterol. When you do indulge, eat only lean meats with very little visible fat.

Your store's butcher may be able to help you select lower-fat cuts of various meats. Examples of lean beef include London broil, eye of round, and filet mignon. When eating red meat, enjoy unprocessed meats rather than processed meats like bacon and sausage, which are linked to greater odds of developing heart disease and diabetes.

Remove the skin from poultry. That's where much of the fat is.

Eat more seafood. It usually has less fat and cholesterol than other meat. Most shellfish are also low in fat, although some are high in cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fatty fish (like salmon, tuna, or mackerel) each week for heart health. Those fish are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for you.

Limit fat, including whole-fat dairy products, mayonnaise, and hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils or fats (such as stick margarine). These products are usually high in saturated fats and may also contain trans fats, which can raise your cholesterol level.

Go liquid. For cooking, replace saturated fats that are solid at room temperature (such as butter and shortening) with liquid monounsaturated fats such as olive, canola, and flaxseed oils. There’s evidence that eating moderate amounts of monounsaturated fat -- found in such foods as nuts, seeds, and avocados -- may actually lower LDL cholesterol.

Favor fiber. You get fiber from plant foods. Good sources include grapefruits, apples, beans and other legumes, barley, carrots, cabbage, and oatmeal.

Get more value from plants. Foods rich in plant sterols can help lower cholesterol. Aim for two servings a day. Plant sterols are also added to some soft margarines, granola bars, yogurts, and orange juice.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on March 08, 2014

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Desirable
0-199
Borderline
200-239
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240+

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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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