Cholesterol Overview

Cholesterol Testing and Prevention

How often should I have my cholesterol levels tested?
You should get your cholesterol tested every three to five years, more often if you have high cholesterol levels. Please refer to the table below for guidelines for total cholesterol, LDL and HDL levels.

Desirable Borderline Undesirable
Total Cholesterol Below 200 200-240 Above 240
HDL Cholesterol Above 45 35-45 Below 35
LDL Cholesterol Below 130 130-160 Above 160
Total Cholesterol/HDL Below 4.5 4.5-5.5 Above 5.5
LDL/HDL Below 3 3-5 Above 5


What can I do to reduce my cholesterol?
There are several steps you can take to reduce your cholesterol levels. The first is to eat a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet. That means keeping your total fat consumption--saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated--to fewer than 30 percent of your daily intake of calories. (See How Fat Works for details.) Remember to keep your cholesterol intake to fewer than 300 milligrams per day. Saturated fats contained in butter, whole milk, hydrogenated oils, chocolate shortening, etc. should comprise no more than one third of your total fat consumption. To reduce your total fat and cholesterol intake, limit your consumption of meats such as beef, pork, liver and tongue (always trim away excess fat). In addition, avoid cheese, fried foods, nuts and cream, and try to curb your intake of eggs to no more than four per week. Try to eat meatless meals several times a week, use skim milk and include fish in your diet. Eat a wide variety of vegetables, pasta, grains and fruit. Another good tip is to look at the package label of the foods you buy, and restrict your choices to foods containing 3 grams of fat or less per serving.

There is evidence that water-soluble fibers can aid in lowering cholesterol; these foods include the fiber in oat or corn bran, beans and legumes, pectin found in apples and other fruits, and guar that is used as a thickener. Although highly touted by the media and health food stores, the phospholipid Lecithin has not been confirmed as a reducer of blood cholesterol levels.

If you are overweight, trying to lose weight and including aerobic exercise in your routine can help raise those desirable HDL levels. Diet and exercise alone can decrease cholesterol levels by up to 15 percent.

It probably comes as no surprise to you that, if you smoke, you should quit to avoid a wide range of health problems, including lower HDL levels and increased risk of heart attack.