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Understanding Your Cholesterol Level (cont.)


What should I do if I have high cholesterol?

As described above, high total cholesterol blood levels are associated with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease. Depending on the test results, lifelong treatment including healthy lifestyle changes and/or medications may be recommended.

If you have high cholesterol or triglyceride levels, the main goal of a treatment program is to lower the numbers to decrease the potential risk of narrowed arteries and their complications.

  • Lifestyle changes include eating a healthy diet low in unsaturated fats and cholesterol, exercise, weight control, and avoiding or quitting smoking.
  • Medications may be prescribed in conjunction with lifestyle changes. The health-care professional and patient decide together which medications may be required if lifestyle changes are not adequate to control cholesterol levels. The choice of medication depends upon which type of cholesterol or triglyceride is elevated, past medical history, other illnesses that may be present, and other medications that are being taken.
  • Cholesterol control is often a lifelong commitment.
  • Other risk factors associated with heart attack, stroke, and peripheral artery disease include smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, and family history.
  • Cholesterol lowering medications may be prescribed even if cholesterol levels are relatively normal, if the risk of developing heart disease or stroke is high. Total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and body mass index (BMI) are all assessed by a doctor to determine whether medication may be helpful.

What online cardiovascular disease risk calculators are available?

See the following Websites for information on CVD risk calculators:


American Heart Association. What Your Cholesterol Levels Mean.

National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health. "Third Report of the Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (Adult Treatment Panel III)."

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/23/2016

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