Lower Cholesterol Levels with Diet and Medication

  • 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: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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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 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.

Quick GuideLower Your Cholesterol, Save Your Heart

Lower Your Cholesterol, Save Your Heart

Cholesterol levels facts

  • A high blood cholesterol levels is also referred to as hypercholesterolemia.
  • Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is an important part of the outer lining of cells in the body of animals. Because cholesterol is a fat, elevated blood cholesterol is sometimes referred to as hyperlipidemia.
  • Cholesterol is also found in the blood circulation of humans.
  • Cholesterol in the blood originates from dietary intake and liver production.
  • Dietary cholesterol comes primarily from animal sources including meat, poultry, fish, and dairy products.
  • Organ meats such as liver are especially high in cholesterol.
  • LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol is called "bad" cholesterol because elevated levels of LDL cholesterol are associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease.
  • HDL (high density lipoprotein) cholesterol is called the "good cholesterol" because HDL cholesterol particles prevent atherosclerosis by extracting cholesterol from artery walls and disposing of them through liver metabolism.
  • High levels of LDL cholesterol and low levels of HDL cholesterol are risk factors for atherosclerosis.
  • Research has shown that lowering LDL cholesterol reduces the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral artery disease.
  • The National Institute of Health, the American Heart Association, and the American College of Cardiology publish guidelines to help physicians and patients with this risk reduction for heart attack, stroke, and peripheral artery disease.
  • Factors that affect blood cholesterol levels include diet, body weight, exercise, age and gender, diabetes, heredity, and underlying medical conditions.
  • Guidelines recommend that cholesterol screening occur every 5 years after age 20. Should elevated cholesterol levels be found, testing may need to occur more frequently.
  • Patients with cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, LDL cholesterol levels greater 190 mg/dL, and those with a 10-year heart disease risk of greater than 7.5% would benefit from moderate- to high-intensity statin drug therapy.
  • Cholesterol-lowering statin medications decrease the risk of heart disease.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/5/2016

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