Cholesterol Facts

What is cholesterol? It is a waxy, fat-like substance that naturally exists in the cells of the body. There are two main types of cholesterol: "good" or HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) and "bad" or LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein). Having abnormal levels of cholesterol can put you at a higher risk for heart disease, a heart attack, or a stroke.

Best Practices:

Managing your cholesterol begins by having your blood cholesterol level checked. Adults age 20 and older and any person with increased risk for heart disease should be tested. Increased risk for heart disease includes diabetes, personal history of heart disease, family history of heart disease before age 50 in male relatives or age 60 in female relatives, tobacco use, high blood pressure, and/or obesity (body mass index of 30 or higher). Check your Health Risk Assessment to see if you have any coronary risk factors.

Many people get confused about what their numbers mean after they have had their cholesterol measured. Here is a basic guideline.

  • Total Blood Cholesterol level should be less than 200 mg/dL
  • HDL (Good Cholesterol) should be higher than 40mg/dL for men and 50 mg/dL for women. An HDL cholesterol of 60 mg/dL and above is considered protective against heart disease.
  • LDL (Bad Cholesterol) should be less than 100 mg/dL
  • Triglycerides should be less than 150 mg/dL

After you know your numbers, if your cholesterol is high, work with your health care provider to develop a treatment and prevention plan.

Next, think about making lifestyle choices to lower the amount of cholesterol in the blood. You can take action now to limit or reduce the negative consequences of high cholesterol. You can make the following changes to reduce your risks:

  • Follow a heart healthy diet. Eat five or more servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables every day. Choose whole grains and beans. Use fat free or low fat milk products. Eat heart healthy fish like salmon and tuna. Choose healthy fats in moderation. Heart healthy fats include monounsaturated fats (i.e. olive and canola oils) and nuts.
  • Live an active lifestyle. The American Heart Association recommends getting at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity five or more days a week.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight by setting a weight loss goal. Even losing 5-10% of your weight can make a difference.
  • Avoid tobacco products. Tobacco smoke damages the artery walls and increases your risk for clogged arteries.

How we can help:

Health Plus and Occupational Health will support you with treatment and counseling services if you want to become tobacco-free. Contact Quit Rx at 615-936-0955 to make an appointment.

Additional Information

Cardiovascular Risk Calculator

National Cholesterol Education Program: High Blood Cholesterol

American Heart Association

Healthy Cooking Oils


Vanderbilt Heart


Babies & You - A work site prenatal health promotion program for faculty/staff, spouses, and/or dependent children who become pregnant. The program encourages early and consistent prenatal care and provides monthly educational opportunities.