If you’re having a cholesterol test soon, you might wonder what to expect when you get your results. If they’re high, will this mean a lifetime of medicine? Are there other kinds of treatments?
You might be surprised to learn that some people can lower cholesterol without medication. It depends on your risk factors for heart disease, and what your doctor thinks is best for you.
Learn more about what your numbers mean and what options you might have for keeping your cholesterol in a healthy range.
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What Do the Cholesterol Numbers Mean?
Your total cholesterol level shows how much cholesterol you have in your blood, and your test results will fall into one of these ranges:
- 200 mg/dL or lower = normal
- 200 – 239 mg/dL = borderline high
- 240 mg/dL or higher = high
Your total number includes:
- HDL, or “good” cholesterol. HDL helps take away LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, from your blood, so a higher number is better.
- LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. LDL is linked to the buildup of plaque in your blood vessels, so a lower number is better.
- Triglycerides, a type of fat. Triglycerides are also linked to the buildup of plaque in your blood vessels, so a lower number is better.
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Am I at Risk for Heart Disease?
If your cholesterol numbers are in the normal range, you should keep eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and practicing other healthy habits to make sure your numbers stay low. Keeping your cholesterol in a healthy range is one of many things you can do to keep your risk for heart disease low.
If your numbers are borderline high, or high, your risk for heart disease is increased. When you have too much cholesterol in your blood, it can build up in your blood vessels as plaque. Over time, plaque can make your blood vessels hard, narrow, or become completely blocked, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
What Are My High Cholesterol Treatment Options?
The good news is that high cholesterol can be treated. In order to create the best treatment plan for you, your doctor will take into account your general health, habits, risk factors, and family history. Many people can lower their numbers through lifestyle changes, including:
- Eating heart-healthy foods that are low in fat, cholesterol, and sodium and high in fiber, like fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- Getting regular exercise, which can help control weight, raise HDL, and lower LDL and triglycerides.
If these changes aren’t enough to get your numbers into a healthy range, your doctor might prescribe medication. It’s very important to stay on your treatment plan, and to practice healthy habits, whether your doctor prescribes medicine or not.
To learn more about cholesterol, heart disease, and how to keep your risks low, visit the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute or call 1-855-UPMC-HVI.
The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute ranks among the best in the United States for complete cardiovascular care. U.S. News & World Report lists UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the top hospitals nationally for cardiology and heart surgery. We treat all manners of heart and vein conditions, from the common to the most complex. We are creating new medical devices and cutting-edge treatments that may not be available at other hospitals. We also offer screenings, free clinics, and education events in the community.