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High blood cholesterol (high total cholesterol and high LDL cholesterol)

Blood cholesterol naturally occurs in your body.


At some time, you may have to make changes in several areas of your diet. Your health care team may ask you to focus on just one or two. Ask them what they want you to focus on now.

It is a white, waxy substance that is found in your cell walls, hormones and bile acids.

How much cholesterol you have in your body is determined by your: genetics (family history), food choices, weight and activity level.

There are two kinds of cholesterol, sometimes called "good" and "bad."

  • "Good" cholesterol is called high density lipoprotein, or HDL. HDLs are believed to help remove "bad" cholesterol from your body, so the more you have — the higher your HDL levels — the better.


    LDL that is 99 mg/dL or less is recommended if you have diabetes. LDL less than 70 mg/dL is recommended if you have both diabetes and heart disease or if you have had a heart attack or a stroke.

    HDL levels under 40 mg/dL are considered a risk factor for heart disease. You can increase your HDL level by exercising aerobically, losing weight and not smoking.

    Don't be too disappointed if your HDL levels don’t go up much. Your low HDL may be caused by your family history.

  • "Bad" cholesterol is low density lipoprotein, or LDL. LDL carries cholesterol from your liver to other tissues in your body, and forms deposits on blood vessel walls.

    Too much cholesterol can build up in your blood vessels and "clog the pipes." LDL levels that are 99 mg/dL or less are desirable in a person with heart disease.


You can reduce trigylcerides by limiting alcohol and simple sugars, by doing aerobic exercise, and by losing weight if you are overweight. Good control of diabetes is also important.

Sometimes, you'll hear triglycerides discussed along with cholesterol. Triglycerides are a normal part of your blood.

High levels can be caused by alcohol use or high sugar and fat intake. High triglycerides with low HDL are associated with increased risk of heart disease. Check the following chart for good levels.

To keep your heart its healthiest, your cholesterol levels should fall within the recommended range. Record your test results on the Cholesterol Test Results Record worksheet (PDF), and watch your levels improve over time.

Desirable cholesterol levels for people with coronary artery disease

Total cholesterolLDL "bad" cholesterolHDL "good" cholesterolTriglycerides
Less than 200 mg/dLLess than 70 mg/dLMore than 60 mg/dLLess than 150 mg/dL



Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Helping Your Heart, fourth edition, cvs-ahc-90648

First published: 10/04/2002
Last updated: 06/01/2007

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts