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9.07.2016

Lower your cholesterol to protect your heart

September is National Cholesterol Education Month, which serves as a good reminder to get your blood cholesterol checked and take steps to lower it if it’s high. Keep reading to learn what your cholesterol levels mean and find out how to prevent high cholesterol.

Fast facts

  • Excess cholesterol can build up in your arteries, putting you at risk for heart disease
  • Simple dietary and lifestyle changes can often help lower your cholesterol and protect your heart

Know your numbers

Starting at age 20, you should have a blood test every 5 years to determine your cholesterol levels. If you have been diagnosed with heart disease or are already at a greater risk, your doctor may recommend more frequent testing.

Aim for your levels to be within these ranges:

HDL (“good” cholesterol):

  • 40 mg/dL or higher for men
  • 50 mg/dL for women

LDL (“bad” cholesterol): Less than 130 mg/dL

Total cholesterol: Less than 200 mg/dL

Take action now!

Following these tips can help you lower your cholesterol—and become more healthy in general.

  • Limit high-calorie foods and foods high in saturated and trans fat. Reduce your intake of fatty meats like beef and pork, poultry with skin, baked goods, fried foods, sugary drinks, and full-fat dairy.
  • Eat fruits and veggies. Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
  • Choose good grains. Make at least half the grains you eat whole grains (like whole wheat, brown rice, or oats).
  • Pick healthy proteins. Eat lean meats, like fish or chicken. And don’t forget to incorporate other sources of protein like nuts and beans, too!
  • Start exercising. Exercise at least 150 minutes each week to help raise your good HDL cholesterol. And if you are new to exercise, talk to your doctor before you start working out.
  • Drop a pants size. Abdominal fat is linked to high cholesterol. Men should keep their waist under 40 inches, while women should not exceed 35 inches.
  • Quit tobacco. Tobacco use lowers your good HDL and can lead to high cholesterol.