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reviewed 8/14/2018

Cholesterol: Learn about your levels

Healthy cholesterol levels can help you avoid heart attack and stroke. Your total cholesterol score is made up of three numbers. Some should be low. Other should be high.

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL)

Type: artery-clogging. Goal: low LDL.

To lower your LDL

  • Exercise.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Manage your weight.
  • Choose healthy oils like canola and olive oil.

High-density lipoprotein (HDL)

Type: heart-healthy. Goal: high HDL.

To raise your HDL

  • Exercise.
  • Manage your weight.
  • Eat fatty fish twice per week.
  • Eat more vegetables and whole grains.

Triglycerides

Type: artery-clogging. Goal: low triglycerides.

Triglycerides are a type of fat that works with HDL and LDL to make up your total cholesterol.

To lower triglycerides

  • Exercise.
  • Manage your weight.
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Don't smoke.
  • Eat fewer carbohydrates.

Check your cholesterol levels. Adults age 20 and older should have their cholesterol checked every four to six years. Your cholesterol levels, along with other risk factors, will help your doctor assess your cardiovascular health.

Learn more about cholesterol.

Sources: American Heart Association; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

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