Cholesterol Management

  • Medical Author:
    Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

    Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

View the Cholesterol Levels Slideshow

Quick GuideLowering Your Cholesterol Levels

Lowering Your Cholesterol Levels

What are normal cholesterol levels?

Blood tests are required to measure total cholesterol and lipoproteins. For a complete lipoprotein analysis, the patient should be fasting for at least 12 hours.

The National Cholesterol Education Program endorsed by the American Heart Association suggests the following risk guidelines:

Cholesterol Risk Guidelines
Total Cholesterol (mg/dL)
< 200 Desireable
200 to 239 Borderline high
> 240 High
HDL (mg/dL)
< 40 Low
> 60 High
LDL (mg/dL)
< 100 Optimal
100 to 129 Near Optimal
130 to 159 Borderline high
160 to 189 Near high
> 190 High

The goal is to have patients modify lifestyle and diet to maintain cholesterol levels within the normal range. It is important to remember that HDL may protect a patient from heart disease and it may be a treatment goal to raise a too low level of HDL.

Which foods can help lower cholesterol?

The American Heart Association has developed diet guidelines to help lower cholesterol levels. It may be a challenge to read the nutritional contents on food packaging and on restaurant menus or to do the math, but the benefit will decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke.

  • Limit total fat intake to less than 25% to 35% of your total calories each day.
  • Limit saturated fat intake to less than 7% of total daily calories.
  • Limit trans fat intake to less than 1% of total daily calories.
  • The remaining fat should come from sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as unsalted nuts and seeds, fish (especially oily fish, such as salmon, trout, and herring, at least twice per week) and vegetable oils.
  • Limit cholesterol intake to less than 300 mg per day, for most people. If you have coronary heart disease or your LDL cholesterol level is 100 mg/dL or greater, limit your cholesterol intake to less than 200 milligrams a day.

Some food groups may be beneficial in directly lowering cholesterol levels and include foods with plant sterol additives, high fiber foods like bran, oatmeal, and fruits like apples and pears, fish, nuts, and olive oil. Some of these foods like nuts and fruits are also high in calories, so moderation is always advisable.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/27/2015

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