Cholesterol – Understanding the highs and lows

A total cholesterol number below 200 is desirable, but there’s more to the complete picture.

When it comes to HDL or “good cholesterol,” the higher the better. Men should aim for 40 or above, women 50 or above.

An LDL (“bad cholesterol”) under 130 is the target for most people. But that can drop to less than 100, depending upon your overall risk for heart disease. The optimum number for triglycerides is below 150.

Not smoking, losing weight if needed, and exercising briskly for at least 30 minutes every day will help raise your HDL as well as lower LDL and triglyceride levels.

Other ways to lower LDL: Eat more foods high in soluble fiber such as oats, apples, and beans. Restrict animal (saturated) fats and trans fats.

Limit alcohol and foods high in sugar. When lifestyle changes aren’t enough, your doctor may prescribe medication.

Sources: American Heart Association; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

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