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Heart Disease and Lowering Cholesterol


What Numbers Should I Look For? continued...

Here's how to interpret your cholesterol numbers:

Total CholesterolCategory
Less than 200Desirable
200 - 239Borderline High
240 and aboveHigh


LDL CholesterolLDL-Cholesterol Category
Less than 100Optimal
100 - 129Near optimal/above optimal
130 - 159Borderline high
160 - 189High
190 and aboveVery high


HDL*HDL-Cholesterol Category
60 or moreDesirable - helps to lower risk of
heart disease
Less than 40Major risk factor -- increases the
risk for developing heart disease

*HDL (good) cholesterol protects against heart disease, so for HDL, higher numbers are better.


TriglyceridesHDL-Cholesterol Category
Less than 150Normal (desirable)
heart disease
150-199Borderline high




Very high

What Affects Cholesterol Levels?

A variety of factors can affect your cholesterol levels. They include:

  • Diet.Saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol in the food you eat increase cholesterol levels. Reducing the amount of saturated fat and trans fats in your diet helps lower your blood cholesterol level. Increasing the amount of fiber and plant-derived sterols can also help lower LDL cholesterol.
  • Weight. In addition to being a risk factor for heart disease, being overweight can also increase your cholesterol. Losing weight can help lower your LDL, total cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels, as well as raise your HDL.
  • Exercise. Regular exercise can lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol. You should try to be physically active for 30 minutes every day.
  • Age and Gender. As we get older, cholesterol levels rise. Before menopause, women tend to have lower total cholesterol levels than men of the same age. After menopause, however, 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. Occasionally, a medical condition may cause an elevation of cholesterol levels in the blood. These include hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland), liver disease and kidney disease.
  • Medications. Some medicines, like steroids and progestins, may increase "bad" cholesterol and decrease the "good" cholesterol.


How Is High Cholesterol Treated?

The main goal in treating high cholesterol is to lower your LDL levels. To lower cholesterol, eat a heart-healthy diet, exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy weight. Some may also need to take cholesterol-lowering drugs.

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What is your biggest heart disease risk factor?