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Cholesterol and your Health

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Feb 4, 2024.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance. Your body uses cholesterol to make hormones and new cells, and to protect nerves. Cholesterol is made by your body. It also comes from certain foods you eat, such as meat and dairy products. Your healthcare provider can help you set goals for your cholesterol levels. Your provider can help you create a plan to meet your goals.

What are cholesterol level goals?

Your cholesterol level goals depend on your risk for heart disease, your age, and your other health conditions. The following are general guidelines:

What increases my risk for high cholesterol?

What do I need to know about having my cholesterol levels checked?

Adults 20 to 45 years of age should have their cholesterol levels checked every 4 to 6 years. Adults 45 years or older should have their cholesterol checked every 1 to 2 years. You may need your cholesterol checked more often, or at a younger age, if you have risk factors for heart disease. You may also need to have your cholesterol checked more often if you have other health conditions, such as diabetes. Blood tests are used to check cholesterol levels. Blood tests measure your levels of triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and HDL cholesterol.

How do healthy fats affect my cholesterol levels?

Healthy fats, also called unsaturated fats, help lower LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Healthy fats include the following:

How do unhealthy fats affect my cholesterol levels?

Unhealthy fats increase LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. They are found in foods high in cholesterol, saturated fat, and trans fat:

How is high cholesterol treated?

Treatment for high cholesterol will also decrease your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Treatment may include any of the following:

What food changes can I make to lower my cholesterol levels?

A dietitian can help you create a healthy eating plan. Your dietitian can show you how to read food labels and choose foods low in saturated fat, trans fats, and cholesterol.

What lifestyle changes can I make to lower my cholesterol levels?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare provider to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.