Skip to content

How Is Cholesterol Tested?

Your doctor will recommend one of two tests:

  • A non-fasting test will show your total cholesterol level and may also show your HDL cholesterol.
  • A fasting test, called a lipid profile or a lipoprotein analysis, will measure your triglycerides, LDL, HDL, and total cholesterol.

Your doctor may start with a non-fasting test and then recommend a lipid profile, based on your results.

Doctors recommend your cholesterol stay below 200 and triglycerides below 150. Here's the breakdown:

Total Cholesterol

Category

Less than 200

Best

200-239

Borderline High

240 and above

High

 

Lifestyle Changes Can Lower Cholesterol

To lower your cholesterol and triglycerides -- and lower your risk of heart disease -- you should:

Eat low-cholesterol foods. The American Heart Association recommends you get less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol a day -- just 200 milligrams if you have heart disease.

Avoid saturated fat. Substitute monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as those found in canola oil, olive oil, or liquid margarine, for saturated fats.

Quit smoking. Smoking lowers HDL (good) cholesterol levels. When you stop, they go back up.

Lose extra weight. Being overweight or obese leads to higher triglycerides. Shedding pounds can reverse those numbers.

Exercise. Good cholesterol is typically low in people who aren't active. Physical activity can help bring it up. Plus, getting just half an hour of exercise every day can help control weight, diabetes, and high blood pressure -- all risk factors for heart disease.

Medications to Manage Cholesterol

Sometimes making changes to your diet and getting more exercise aren't enough to bring your cholesterol down. You may also need to take a cholesterol-lowering drug. These include:

  • Statins
  • Fibrates
  • Nicotinic acid
  • Bile-acid resins
  • Ezetimibe
  • High-dose or prescription fish oil supplements [to lower trigylcerides]

Remember: These drugs work best when combined with a low-cholesterol diet.