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 is brought to you by and is intended to provide basic information that you can use to make informed decisions about important health issues affecting you or your loved ones. We hope that you’ll find this information about Cholesterol helpful and that you’ll seek professional medical advice to address any specific symptoms you might have related to this matter.

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What is cholesterol?

Why is cholesterol important?

When should I have my cholesterol checked?

What is LDL cholesterol and why is it “bad” cholesterol?

What are the levels of LDL cholesterol?

What is HDL cholesterol and why is it “good” cholesterol?

What are the levels of HDL cholesterol?

How is triglyceride connected to cholesterol?

What are the levels of triglyceride?

How are cholesterol levels measured?

What are healthy levels of cholesterol?

What affects cholesterol levels?

What is the treatment for cholesterol?

Where can I buy a home test kit for cholesterol?


What is cholesterol? (top)

Cholesterol is a soft, fat-like, waxy substance found in the bloodstream and in all your body's cells. It's normal to have cholesterol. It's an important part of a healthy body because it's used for producing cell membranes and some hormones, and serves other needed bodily functions. But too much cholesterol in the blood is a major risk for coronary heart disease, which leads to heart attack. It's also a risk factor for stroke.

You get cholesterol in two ways. Your body makes some of it, and the rest comes from cholesterol in animal products that you eat, such as meats, poultry, fish, eggs, butter, cheese and whole milk. Food from plants — like fruits, vegetables and cereals — doesn't have cholesterol. Some foods that don't contain animal products may contain trans fats, which cause your body to make more cholesterol. Foods with saturated fats also cause the body to make more cholesterol.


Why is cholesterol important? (top)

Your blood cholesterol level has a lot to do with your chances of getting heart disease. High blood cholesterol is one of the major risk factors for heart disease. A risk factor is a condition that increases your chance of getting a disease. In fact, the higher your blood cholesterol level, the greater your risk for developing heart disease or having a heart attack. Heart disease is the number one killer of women and men in the United States. Each year, more than a million Americans have heart attacks and about a half million people die from heart disease.


When should I have my cholesterol checked? (top)

Everyone age 20 and older should have their cholesterol measured at least once every 5 years. It is best to have a blood test called a "lipoprotein profile" to find out your cholesterol numbers. This blood test is done after a 9- to 12-hour fast and gives information about your:

  • Total cholesterol
  • LDL (bad) cholesterol--the main source of cholesterol buildup and blockage in the arteries
  • HDL (good) cholesterol--helps keep cholesterol from building up in the arteries
  • Triglycerides--another form of fat in your blood


What is LDL cholesterol and why is it “bad” cholesterol? (top)

Bad cholesterol is known as LDL (Low-density lipoprotein).  When too much LDL cholesterol circulates in the blood, it can slowly build up in the inner walls of the arteries that feed the heart and brain. Together with other substances it can form plaque, a thick, hard deposit that can clog those arteries. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. If a clot forms and blocks a narrowed artery, it can cause a heart attack or stroke. 


What are the levels of LDL cholesterol? (top)

Your LDL cholesterol level greatly affects your risk of heart attack and stroke. The lower your LDL cholesterol, the lower your risk of heart attack or stoke. In fact, it’s a better gauge of risk than total blood cholesterol. Your LDL cholesterol will fall into one of these categories:

LDL Cholesterol Levels

Less than 100 mg/dL


100 to 129 mg/dL

Near Optimal/ Above Optimal

130 to 159 mg/dL

Borderline High

160 to 189 mg/dL


190 mg/dL and above

Very High


The key point to remember is the lower your LDL cholesterol, the lower your risk. Your doctor may prescribe a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, regular exercise and a weight management program if you're overweight. If you can't lower your cholesterol with these efforts, medications may also be prescribed to lower your LDL cholesterol.


What is HDL cholesterol and why is it “good” cholesterol? (top)

“Good” cholesterol is known as high-density lipoprotein (HDL). HDL cholesterol is known as the "good" cholesterol because a high level of it seems to protect against heart attack. Medical experts think that HDL tends to carry cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where it's passed from the body. Some experts believe that HDL removes excess cholesterol from plaque in arteries, thus slowing the buildup.


What are the levels of HDL cholesterol? (top)

HDL Cholesterol Levels

40 to 50 mg/dL

Average Man

50 to 60 mg/dL

Average Woman

39 or lower mg/dL


Low HDL cholesterol puts you at high risk for heart disease. Smoking, being overweight and being sedentary can all result in lower HDL cholesterol. If you have low HDL cholesterol, you can help raise it by:

  • Not smoking

  • Losing weight (or maintaining a healthy weight)

  • Being physically active for at least 30–60 minutes a day on most or all days of the week


People with high blood triglycerides usually have lower HDL cholesterol and a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. Progesterone, anabolic steroids and male sex hormones (testosterone) also lower HDL cholesterol levels. Female sex hormones raise HDL cholesterol levels.


How is triglyceride connected to cholesterol? (top)

Triglyceride is a form of fat. It comes from food and is also made in your body. People with high triglycerides often have high total cholesterol, high LDL cholesterol and a low HDL cholesterol level. Many people with heart disease also have high triglyceride levels. People with diabetes or who are obese are also likely to have high triglycerides.


What are the levels of triglyceride? (top)

Your triglyceride level will fall into one of these categories:

Triglyceride Levels

Less than 150 mg/dL


150 - 199 mg/dL

Borderline High

200 - 499 mg/dL


500 + mg/dl

Very High

Many people with high triglycerides have underlying diseases or genetic disorders. If this is true for you, the main therapy is to change your lifestyle. This includes controlling your weight, eating foods low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol, exercising regularly, not smoking and, in some cases, drinking less alcohol. People with high triglycerides may also need to limit their intake of carbohydrates to no more than 45–50 percent of total calories. The reason for this is that carbohydrates raise triglycerides in some people and lower HDL cholesterol. Use products with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.


How are cholesterol levels measured? (top)

Total blood cholesterol is the most common measurement of blood cholesterol. It's the number you normally receive as test results. Cholesterol is measured in milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL). Knowing your total blood cholesterol level is an important first step in determining your risk for heart disease.


What are healthy levels of cholesterol? (top)

Your total blood cholesterol will fall into one of these categories:

Desirable — Less than 200 mg/dL

If your total cholesterol is less than 200 mg/dL, your heart attack risk is relatively low, unless you have other risk factors. Even with a low risk, it's still smart to eat foods low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol, and also get plenty of physical activity. Have your cholesterol levels measured every five years — or more often if you're a man over 45 or a woman over 55.


Borderline high risk — 200–239 mg/dL

People whose cholesterol level is from 200 to 239 mg/dL are borderline high risk. About a third of American adults are in this (borderline) group; almost half of adults have total cholesterol levels below 200 mg/dL.

High risk — 240 mg/dL and over
If your total cholesterol level is 240 or more, it's definitely high. Your risk of heart attack and stroke is greater. In general, people who have a total cholesterol level of 240 mg/dL have twice the risk of coronary heart disease as people whose cholesterol level is 200 mg/dL.


Have your cholesterol and HDL rechecked in one to two years if:

  • Your total cholesterol is in this range.

  • Your HDL is less than 40 mg/dL.

  • You don’t have other risk factors for heart disease.


You should also lower your intake of foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol to reduce your blood cholesterol level to below 200 mg/dL. Your doctor may order another blood test to measure your LDL cholesterol. Ask your doctor to discuss your LDL cholesterol with you. Even if your total cholesterol is between 200 and 239 mg/dL, you may not be at high risk for a heart attack.


Click here for a cholesterol tracker from the American Heart Association®


What affects cholesterol levels? (top)

A variety of things can affect cholesterol levels. These are things you can do something about:


Diet: Saturated fat and cholesterol in the food you eat make your blood cholesterol level go up. Saturated fat is the main culprit, but cholesterol in foods also matters. Reducing the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet helps lower your blood cholesterol level.


Weight: Being overweight is a risk factor for heart disease. It also tends to increase your cholesterol. Losing weight can help lower your LDL and total cholesterol levels, as well as raise your HDL and lower your triglyceride levels.


Physical Activity: Not being physically active is a risk factor for heart disease. Regular physical activity can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels. It also helps you lose weight. You should try to be physically active for 30 minutes on most, if not all, days.


Things you cannot do anything about also can affect cholesterol levels. These include:

Age and Gender: As women and men get older, their cholesterol levels rise. Before the age of menopause, women have lower total cholesterol levels than men of the same age. After the age of menopause, 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.


What is the treatment for cholesterol? (top)

The main goal of cholesterol-lowering treatment is to lower your LDL level enough to reduce your risk of developing heart disease or having a heart attack. The higher your risk, the lower your LDL goal will be.  There are two main ways to lower your cholesterol:

Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) and drug treatments- TLC is for anyone whose LDL is above goal and includes the following;

·         The TLC Diet: This is a low-saturated-fat, low-cholesterol eating plan that calls for less than 7percent of calories from saturated fat and less than 200 mg of dietary cholesterol per day. The TLC diet recommends only enough calories to maintain a desirable weight and avoid weight gain. If your LDL is not lowered enough by reducing your saturated fat and cholesterol intakes, the amount of soluble fiber in your diet can be increased. Certain food products that contain plant stanols or plant sterols (for example, cholesterol-lowering margarines) can also be added to the TLC diet to boost its LDL-lowering power.

·         Weight Management: Losing weight if you are overweight can help lower LDL and is especially important for those with a cluster of risk factors that includes high triglyceride and/or low HDL levels and being overweight with a large waist measurement (more than 40 inches for men and more than 35 inches for women).

·         Physical Activity:  Regular physical activity (30 minutes on most, if not all, days) is recommended for everyone. It can help raise HDL and lower LDL and is especially important for those with high triglyceride and/or low HDL levels who are overweight with a large waist measurement.

Drug Treatments- if cholesterol-lowering drugs are needed, they are used together with TLC treatment to help lower your LDL.  There are several types of drugs available for cholesterol lowering including;

Statins: very effective in lowering LDL levels and is safe for most people. They slow down your body's production of cholesterol. These drugs also remove cholesterol buildup from your arteries (blood vessels).

Resins: lowers LDL and can be used alone or in combination with statin drugs.

Nicotinic Acid: lowers LDL and triglycerides and raises HDL.

Fibrates: lower LDL somewhat but are used mainly to treat high triglyceride and low HDL levels.

Niacin: is a B vitamin. When given in large doses, it can lower your levels of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, and increase your HDL cholesterol level. Even though you can buy niacin without a prescription, you should not take it to lower your cholesterol unless your doctor prescribes it for you. It can cause serious side effects.

Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitors: lower LDL by reducing the amount that is absorbed by your intestines and can be used alone or in combination with statin drugs.

Even if you begin drug treatment to lower your cholesterol, you will need to continue your treatment with lifestyle changes. This will keep the dose of medicine as low as possible, and lower your risk in other ways as well.

Your doctor can help decide which type of drug is best for you. Once your LDL goal has been reached, your doctor may prescribe treatment for high triglycerides and/or a low HDL level, if present. The treatment includes losing weight if needed, increasing physical activity, quitting smoking, and possibly taking a drug.


Click here to purchase home test kits for cholesterol









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