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Cholesterol and Triglycerides - Understand Your Levels

Updated on October 20, 2017

You're going to have a Lipid Panel or Lipoprotein Profile. In other words you are going to get your Cholesterol, which includes Total Cholesterol, HDL and LDL and Triglycerides Levels checked. The results will give you an indication of your risk for Heart Disease.

Make sure you Fast. That means do not eat anything for twelve hours prior to your blood draw. You should drink water and may have black coffee but eating will alter the results.

Make sure you stay well hydrated. Drink lots of water! Your veins will be easier to find.

Total Cholesterol Levels

  • Optimal: 199 or lower
  • Borderline: 200-239
  • High Risk: 240 or higher

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a naturally occurring fat in the body. It is produced by the liver and is an important part of normal body functions.

  • Cholesterol is used to build cell membranes.
  • It is involved in the production of sex hormones and those hormones that are released by the adrenal glands.
  • It insulates nerve fibers.
  • It is important for the metabolism of fat soluable vitamins such as Vitamins A,D,E and K
  • Converts sunshine to Vitamin D

HDL Levels Range


  • Excellent: 60 or higher
  • Good: 40-59
  • Needs Improvement: 39 or lower


  • Excellent: 60 or higher
  • Good: 50-59
  • Needs Improvement: 49 or lower

HDL-The "Good" Cholesterol

The "Good" Cholesterol is known as HDL, or High Density Lipoprotein. It takes cholesterol away from the cells and back to the liver where it can be broken down. It is the "Good" Cholesterol because it removes excess cholesterol build up in the ateries. People with high HDL levels are at a lower risk for Heart Disease.

How To Increase Your HDL Level

  1. Quit Smoking! Tobacco smoke lowers your level of HDL
  2. Maintain a Healthy Weight. Avoiding Obesity and Over-Weightedness reduces your risk for Heart Disease and many other health conditions.
  3. Aerobic Exercise. Exercising 30-60 minutes as many days of the week as you can is ideal but difficult for most people. Start with a brisk walk for 20-30 minutes, 3 days per week to help "pump up" your HDL.

LDL Levels Range

  • Optimal: 99 or lower
  • Near Optimal: 100-129
  • Borderline High: 130-159
  • High: 160-189
  • Very High: 190 or higher

LDL-The "Bad" Cholesterol

LDL or Low Density Lipoprotein is referred to as the "Bad" Cholesterol. LDL carries cholesterol from the liver to the cells. There will be a build up if there is too much cholesterol for the cells to use. High LDL levels are associated with an increased risk for heart disease and stroke.

How To Reduce Your LDL

  1. Exercise Regularly: 30-60 minutes of combined Aerobic and Strength Training, such as Brisk Walking and Lifting Weights
  2. Lose Weight if necessary
  3. Change Your Diet:
  • Increase Colorful Fruits and Veggies
  • High in Whole Grains and Fiber
  • Low in Saturated Fats, Trans Fats and Cholesterol
  • Eat Heart Healthy Fats: Olive or Cannola Oil, Fatty Fish, Avocados and Nuts such as Almonds and Walnuts

Triglyceride Levels Range

Normal: 149 or lower

Borderline: 150-199

High: 200-499

Very High: 500 or higher

What Are Triglycerides?

Triglycerides are chemical forms that exist in body fat. They can originate from the fat we consume or are created in the body from other energy sources such as carbohydrates. They store unused calories and provide energy for metabolism. High concentrations in the blood correlate with the consumption of Starchy Foods, those high in Carbohydrates and Fatty Foods. The most common form of fat we digest is found in animal fats and vegetable oils.

High Levels of Triglcerides put you at a greater risk for Atherosclerosis which is a narrowing of the arteries caused by a build up of Fatty Plaques. This can lead to Heart Attack, Stroke and Peripheral Vascular Disease.

How To Reduce Triglycerides

High Triglyceride Levels respond well to Lifestyle Changes.

  • Exercise Regularly
  • Increase your intake of Omega 3 Fatty Acids. Eat Fatty Fish such as Salmon, Mackeral, Lake Trout, Sardines, Herring and Albacore Tuna. If you don't like Fish, find a reputable source for supplemental Omega 3 Fatty Acid.
  • Flaxseed is a good source of Fiber as well as Omega 3 Fatty Acids.
  • Decrease Saturated and Trans Fats such as those found in Fried Foods, Lard, Butter, Whole Milk, Ice Cream, commercially Baked Goods, Meats, Cheese and Processed Foods.
  • Decrease Sugar Intake
  • Change from White to Brown: Rice, Bread, Pasta, Whole Wheat Products. The taste may take awhile to get used to but it is well worth the health benefits.

Cholesterol and Heredity

Inherited or Genetic Disorders can cause high levels of cholesterol that are difficult to control. These genetic abnormalities can increase cholesterol no matter how much you modify your lifestyle or manage your diet.

  • Hypercholesterolemia is the most common type of inherited high cholesterol. About 1 in 500 people have Familial Hypercholesterolemia which can significantly increase the risk of developing Coronary Artery Disease.
  • Familial Hyperlipidemia causes both the levels of Cholesterol and Triglycerides to increase. It has been estimated that 20% of the 13 million people in the United States that are under the age of 60 have Hyperlipidemia. It is more common in families with a history of high cholesterol and commonly causes heart attacks in young people due to a buildup that can be present in the early teens.

  • Bile Acid Sequestrants combine with bile acids in the intestine where they are eliminated in body waste. These medications are sometimes prescribed with Statins to enhance their Cholesterol lowering effects.
  • Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitors inhibit the absorption of cholesterol in the intestines, have very few possible side effects and are useful for people that cannot tolerate Statins.

Medications To Reduce Cholesterol and Triglcerides

  • Statins lower LDL Cholesterol by reducing production of Cholesterol in the liver. They also can reduce Triglyceride levels and increase levels of HDL.

Side Effects that can subside with the body's adjustment to the medication include upset stomach, gas, constipation, abdominal pain and cramping.

A more rare but significant and dangerous side effect is muscle wasting which can cause muscle pain, weakness and dark colored urine. You should contact your Physician immediately if these symptoms are present.

  • Niacin reduces LDL and Triglycerides and increases HDL.

The most common side effect is flushing and it can be difficult to deal with. This side effect can be diminished if Niacin is taken just before or with meals or if Aspirin or another anti-inflammatory suggested by your Physician is taken 30 minutes prior to taking Niacin.

Niacin can also enhance the effectiveness of medications taken for Hypertension causing the Blood Pressure to drop. Monitor your Blood Pressure regularly.

Some gastrointestinal side effects include indigestion, nausea, gas, vomiting and diarrhea.

  • Fibrates can be effective in lowering Triglycerides.

Gastrointestinal discomfort and gallstones can be side effects. Fibrates may offset the effects of Anticoagulants on thinning blood.

Do You Need To Lose Weight?

The BMI or Body Mass Index is a general guide to see if you are height/weight proportionate. It will indicate if you are in an Underweight, Normal, Overweight or Obese range.

Calculate your BMI

It is more accurate if your body fat percentage is known.

Use this Body Fat Calculator to estimate your body fat percentage.

Lifestyle Changes

While on medications continue to modify Lifestyle.

  • Lose Weight if necessary
  • Exercise Regularly
  • Eat Healthy Foods low in saturated fats and cholesterol. Add Healthy Fats, colorful Fruits and Veggies, Nuts and Fatty Fish or supplement with Omega 3 Fatty Acids.


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    • profile image

      6 years ago

      YW. Well, it's as if the 'good' cholesterol has to swagger up to the 'bad', fatty stuff and say: 'This town ain't big enough for the two of us!'

    • pedrn44 profile image

      Sandi 6 years ago from Greenfield, Wisconsin

      Hahah very good! The good guys and the bad ones. They are like that and the research I did helped me to understand who is who:) Thanks for the comment.

    • profile image

      6 years ago

      I guess the analogy of Western movies comes to mind, too, for cholesterols: the 'good' guys and the 'bad' guys.

      Sometimes it's hard to tell them apart, though. I guess for diets there does need to be quite some discernment to tell the good ones from the bad ones, as far as food content is concerned.

    • pedrn44 profile image

      Sandi 6 years ago from Greenfield, Wisconsin

      Thanks so much, LL Woodard:) I appreciate your comment and thanks so much for sharing. I was a Wellness Nurse for a few months and really studied up on this.

    • L.L. Woodard profile image

      L.L. Woodard 6 years ago from Oklahoma City

      This is a comprehensive hub on cholesterol and triglycerides. It takes the mystery out of the various levels and provides practical tips for being healthier.

      Voted up and SHARED.

    • pedrn44 profile image

      Sandi 6 years ago from Greenfield, Wisconsin

      Thanks for stopping by Vellur and I appreciate the vote:) I'm glad you found this useful.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 6 years ago from Dubai

      Excellent hub. Very useful and clearly explained. Voted up. Thanks for the information.

    • pedrn44 profile image

      Sandi 6 years ago from Greenfield, Wisconsin

      Thanks, alocsin. I'm glad you found this useful. I appreciate you stopping by:)

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Thanks for explaining some of these numbers, which I've seen on my medical tests. Voting this Up and Useful.

    • pedrn44 profile image

      Sandi 6 years ago from Greenfield, Wisconsin

      Hi wilderness. I did talk to a couple of people that said taking the aspirin ahead of time did help and another who said taking it just before or with meals helped as well. I hope you find some relief. If those flushes are anything like hot flashes I feel your pain :) Good luck and thanks for stopping by.

    • wilderness profile image

      Dan Harmon 6 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      I'm on medication for cholestrol, including niacin. 1000 mg causes bad flushing and is quite uncomfortable - I'll have to try your suggestion of taking the 1 aspirin earlier than the other drugs and see if it helps.

      Thanks for the information - I hope it works as I really hate that flush.

    • profile image

      6 years ago

      YW. You seem to write about a lot of interesting things, with useful info., anyway.

    • pedrn44 profile image

      Sandi 6 years ago from Greenfield, Wisconsin

      Thanks, f. I'm glad you found it informative. I appreciate you stopping by and voting:)

    • profile image

      6 years ago

      Voted up. Good info. (Wow, I can hardly spell some of those words!)

    • pedrn44 profile image

      Sandi 6 years ago from Greenfield, Wisconsin

      Thank you. uniquearticlesbuz for stopping by and complimenting my hub:)

    • uniquearticlesbuz profile image

      uniquearticlesbuz 6 years ago from USA

      Nice Hub Dear...........

    • pedrn44 profile image

      Sandi 6 years ago from Greenfield, Wisconsin

      Thanks, Brian for enjoying my hub and leaving such a nice comment:) Yes, regular exercise is important and I do feel so much better when I keep to a schedule. I am not quite enthusiastic enough to do it daily...but 3 times weekly will suffice!

    • Brian Burton profile image

      Brian Burton 6 years ago

      Think you said "Exercise Regularly" three times. Agreed, it is soooo important. From personal experience a little goes a long ways as long as it is "regular". Very well written, interesting, and detailed!

    • pedrn44 profile image

      Sandi 6 years ago from Greenfield, Wisconsin

      Thanks for such a nice comment, randomcreative. I'm glad you found this informative:)

      Thanks, ktrapp:) I'm glad you appreciate the info...I appreciate your comment:)I hope you have healthy outcome to your physical.

    • ktrapp profile image

      Kristin Trapp 6 years ago from Illinois

      This is great specific information on cholesterol. I appreciate how you included not only optimal HDL and LDL ranges, but methods on how to improve both levels. Thanks for the information. I am bookmarking it to refer to after I have a physical in the next month.

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 6 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Great, useful information! I love how you've broken down all of the different facts. This is a wonderful resource.

    • pedrn44 profile image

      Sandi 6 years ago from Greenfield, Wisconsin

      Thanks, Will. Always nice to "see" you.

      Hi beccas. Glad you found this informative. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a nice comment.

    • beccas90 profile image

      beccas90 6 years ago from New York

      Excellent start to your hub - very informative.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Excellent! Thank you for the great information.