This article was last updated on July 7, 2017\nCholesterol is a fat-like compound found in body tissue\u00a0\u2014 and it plays a key role in your heart health. Your body needs some cholesterol to make hormones and help your body digest food. So, there are healthy and unhealthy ranges of cholesterol.\nUnfortunately, the only way to know if your cholesterol is in a healthy range is to have it tested.\u00a0By learning about cholesterol basics, you can stay on track with heart-healthy choices.\nWhat Is Cholesterol?\nCholesterol is a soft, waxy substance found in your blood and all of your body’s cells. Your liver makes it naturally, and it also comes from the foods you eat, including animal products like:\n\nMeat, fish, and poultry\nEgg yolks\nWhole milk dairy products\n\nFoods from plants like fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds have no cholesterol.\nYour cholesterol level\nYour cholesterol level is the amount of cholesterol in your blood. Your total cholesterol level is made up of:\n\nHDL, or “good” cholesterol. \u2013 A higher number is better, because HDL helps take away LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, from your blood.\nLDL, or “bad” cholesterol. \u2013 A lower number is better, because LDL is linked to the buildup of plaque in your blood vessels.\nTriglycerides, a type of fat. \u2013 A lower number is better, because triglycerides are also linked to the buildup of plaque in your blood vessels\n\nGetting a Cholesterol Test\nStarting at age 20, you should have a cholesterol test every four to six years. Your doctor may tell you to have yours checked more often if you have risk factors for heart disease.\nTests usually take place at a doctor’s office or other medical facility. Some communities offer free heart screenings at health fairs and other events.\nBefore your test, you will be asked not to eat or drink for several hours. During your test, a nurse or technician draws blood from your arm, and your blood is then sent to a lab for testing. Usually, you’ll get your results in about a week.\nCholesterol test results\nYour results will fall into one of the following categories:\n\n200 mg\/dL or lower = normal\n200 – 239 mg\/dL = borderline high\n240 mg\/dL or higher = high\n\nHaving too much cholesterol in your blood raises your risk for heart disease, because cholesterol can build up inside your blood vessels in a form called plaque.\nOver time, plaque build-up can make your blood vessels narrow, hard, or block them completely. If blood flow to your heart is blocked, it can cause a heart attack; if blood flow to your brain is blocked, it can cause a stroke.\nHigh Cholesterol Treatment\nSome people can lower cholesterol by changing their habits, including:\n\nEating a heart-healthy diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products\nGetting regular exercise\nLosing weight, and maintaining a healthy weight\nQuitting smoking\n\nOther people might need medicines to help lower cholesterol. Talk to your doctor about what is best for you.\nTo learn more, visit the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute or contact us at 1-855-UPMC-HVI (876-2484).