Skip to content
    Font Size

    Heart Disease and Lowering Cholesterol


    What Numbers Should I Look For? continued...

    Here's how to interpret your cholesterol numbers:

    Total Cholesterol Category
    Less than 200 Desirable
    200 - 239 Borderline High
    240 and above High


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


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

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


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




    Very high

    What Affects Cholesterol Levels?

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

    • Diet. Saturated fat, trans fat, carbohydrates, and cholesterol in the food you eat increase cholesterol levels. Reducing the amount of saturated fat, trans fats and sugars 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 goals in treating high cholesterol are to lower your LDL levels and lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. To lower cholesterol, eat a heart-healthy diet, exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy weight. Some may also need to take cholesterol-lowering drugs.

    Next Article:

    What is your biggest heart disease risk factor?