Accessible Search Form           Advanced Search

Skip left side navigation and go to content

Health Information for the Public

Be Heart Healthy! Learn Ways To Lower Your Blood Cholesterol

Your Choice for Change - Honoring the Gift of Heart Health for American Indians

Section Four - Be Heart Healthy! Learn Ways To Lower Your Blood Cholesterol

Knowing your cholesterol numbers may help you lower your risk of getting heart disease. This section will help you learn how to lower or maintain your blood cholesterol levels.

Mary Learns About Blood Cholesterol

Mary: "My LDL cholesterol level was 130! I needed to bring it down to less than 100. The doctor told me I need to adopt a heart healthy way of life that includes eating healthy, losing weight, and being physically active."

What Is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in your body.

Why Is High Blood Cholesterol Bad for Your Heart?

Your body makes all the cholesterol you need to keep you healthy. When you eat foods high in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol, your body can make too much cholesterol.

Over time, this extra cholesterol can clog your arteries. The higher your blood cholesterol, the greater your chances of having a heart attack or stroke.

What Is Good and Bad Cholesterol?

HDL is "good cholesterol." It helps clean fat and cholesterol from your blood vessels. Remember the H in HDL is for Healthy, and the Higher it is, the better.

LDL is "bad cholesterol." It carries cholesterol to your blood vessels, clogging them like rust in a pipe. Remember the L in LDL is for Lousy, and the Lower it is, the better.

Have Your Blood Cholesterol Checked.

The blood test to measure the cholesterol levels is called a lipid profile. You can have this test done at your doctor's office. If you are 20 years of age or older, check your cholesterol at least every 5 years. Your doctor may test you more often if your cholesterol levels are high.

Learn What Your Cholesterol Levels Mean.

Total cholesterol:

  • Less than 200—Ideal. Good for you!
  • 200 to 239—Borderline. Be alert!
  • 240 or more—High. Danger!

LDL (Bad) Cholesterol:

  • Keep it low!
  • Less than 100 mg/dL is ideal.

HDL (Good) Cholesterol:

  • The higher, the better!
  • Keep it 40 mg/dL or higher.

You can make changes in what you eat. This may help you lower your blood cholesterol level.

A confident man standing solidly on a block, wearing a first place ribbon, showing his cholesterol level of less than 200 A concerned and wobbling man trying to keep his balance on two blocks, showing a cholesterol level between 200 and 239 A worried man losing his balance and about to fall off four blocks, showing a cholesterol level of 240 or more

Next Page | Back to Table of Contents

Public Health Service
National Institutes of Health
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
NIH Publication No. 08-6340
June 2008

Twitter iconTwitterimage of external icon Facebook iconFacebookimage of external icon YouTube iconYouTubeimage of external icon Google+ iconGoogle+image of external icon