Cholesterol and Triglyceride Management Guide

Do not wait until it is too late

High blood cholesterol can creep up on you without warning. You may feel fine, but

over time, high cholesterol puts you at risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Did you know that high cholesterol is estimated to cause around 4.4 million deaths throughout the world. Approximately one in seven adults has a total blood cholesterol value that is considered high risk.

Good news

Every 1% reduction in your cholesterol reduces your risk of getting heart disease by

2%. Every 1 milligram (mg)/deciliter (dL) increase (not percentage) in your good cholesterol lowers your risk of heart disease 2%-5%. Time to get with it!

Family history

“We can’t change the cards we’re dealt, just how we play the hand.”� Randy Pausch

You can take steps to manage cholesterol and triglycerides, and protect your heart no matter what your family history is!

Total cholesterol

This is the total amount of cholesterol in your blood. The higher the number, the more likely it is affecting your health.

High-density lipoprotein (HDL)

This is called “good” cholesterol,  because it carries excess cholesterol out of the blood and away from the heart.

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL)

This is called “bad” cholesterol, because it can stick to vessel walls, reducing or blocking

blood flow.



This is another type of fat in your body. Your body uses alcohol, extra calories, or sugar to produce triglycerides.

What can you do?

Step 1: Limit your trans fat and saturated fat intake


Trans fat: This man-made fat helps to increase the shelf life of foods. Trans fat increases your LDL (bad) cholesterol and decreases your HDL (good) cholesterol. Trans fat (also known as partially hydrogenated oils) are listed as an ingredient on food labels. If possible, avoid all trans fats.

Saturated fat: Saturated fats occur naturally in many foods. The majority come mainly from animal sources, including meat and dairy products. Saturated fats increase the level of total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol in your blood. High levels of blood cholesterol increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Saturated fat raises your LDL (bad) cholesterol level more than anything else you eat. It is found in:

  • Fatty cuts of meat
  • Poultry with skin
  • Whole-milk dairy products
  • Tropical oils, such as coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils
  • Fried foods
  • Lard
  • Cream
  • Many snacks and sweets

Tips to decrease saturated fat

Instead of


Red meats, especially high-fat cuts and organ meats

White-meat chicken and turkey without the skin

Regular ground beef

92% lean ground beef

Whole eggs with yolks

Egg whites or egg substitutes

Whole milk

Fat-free or low-fat milk and dairy products

Packaged oatmeal, flavored with sugar and salt

Whole-grain oatmeal, flavored with fresh fruit

Potato chips and dip

Fresh fruit and vegetables with low-fat dressing or hummus


Reduced-fat varieties or substitutes

(look for the words “lite” or “fat free”) 

Step 2: Opt for healthy fats

By replacing saturated fats with monounsaturated fat you can lower your LDL cholesterol and increase your HDL cholesterol. Olive oil and canola oil have a high percentage of monounsaturated fat. But remember that just 1 tablespoon of oil contains approximately 14 grams (g) of fat and 120 calories; so, although it is the healthier fat, you still need to use it in small amounts.

Other foods rich in monounsaturated fats are:

  • Olives
  • Avocados
  • Peanut butter
  • Many nuts and seeds

Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids are another type of healthy fat (polyunsaturated). Omega-3 fatty acids benefit the heart of healthy people, those at high risk, and those who have heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends eating a variety of fish (preferably fatty fish like mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, and salmon) at least twice a week. Other foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include:

  • Flaxseed, canola, and soybean oils
  • Flaxseeds
  • Walnuts

Step 3: Eat enough fiber

Eat beans, whole-grain cereals, and oatmeal, and aim for five servings of fruits and vegetables/day. Anything with 5 g of fiber or more is a high source of fiber. Fiber is good for the whole family. The average American adult consumes 10 g of dietary fiber/day. However, it is recommended that adults consume 25-35 g of fiber/day for optimal health!  Recommendations for children older than 3 years of age is to consume their “age plus 5 g” of dietary fiber/day.

Step 4: Practice weight management

Control the calories you consume to take action in managing your weight. It takes 3500 calories to equal 1 pound (lb) of body fat. Cutting back just 500 calories/day can promote a 1 lb weight loss/week. What does 500 calories look like? A 20-fluid-ounce bottle of regular cola plus one regular-sized candy bar equals approximately 500 calories. If you are overweight, just losing 5%-10% of your weight can significantly reduce your blood cholesterol!


Step 5: Exercise regularly

Regular exercise can help raise HDL (good) cholesterol and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. Aim for 30 minutes of activity or more on most days of the week. Three 10-minute bouts of exercise are just as effective as one 30-minute session.


Step 6: Live a healthy lifestyle

Manage stress, do not smoke, do not drink excess alcohol, and pay attention to food labels using the guide below.


 Make better choices

When shopping compare food labels, and pick foods low in saturated and trans fats, whenever possible. When eating out, ask your server for low-fat or heart-healthy options.  Take the steps instead of the elevator, and park farther away on purpose to get extra activity.


What is your number?

Total Cholesterol


<200 mg/dL


200-239 mg/dL

Borderline high

240 mg/dL and above


LDL Cholesterol Levels

<100 mg/dL


100-129 mg/dL


130-159 mg/dL

Borderline high

160-189 mg/dL


190 mg/dL and above

Very high

HDL Cholesterol Levels

“H” Stands for Healthy

Men under 40 mg/dL

Women under 50 mg/dL

Increases CAD risk

60 mg/dL or higher

Protects you from CAD


<150 mg/dL


150-199 mg/dL

Borderline high

200 mg/dL or higher


Glucose (fasting)

<100 mg/dL


100-125 mg/dL


126 mg/dL or higher


Blood Pressure








Stage 1 hypertension


Stage 2 hypertension


Severe hypertension

<=less than, >=greater than, CAD=coronary artery disease,

dL=deciliter, mL=milliliter


How to reduce your blood cholesterol

Pay attention to the following limits.


Calorie Level

Total Fat Grams

Saturated Fat Grams

Trans Fat Grams

























Tips and motivational advice

  • “Awareness empowers positive lifestyle changes.”�Unknown
    • “Everything comes too late for those who only wait.”�Elbert Hubbard
    • “Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”�Jim Rohn
    • “The difference between try and triumph is just a little umph!”�Marvin Phillips
    • “If it is to be, it is up to me.”�William Johnson
    • �   “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”�Lao-tzu
    • “Instead of giving yourself reasons why you can’t, give yourself reasons why you can!”�Unknown


References and suggested readings

American Heart Association. Fat. Available at: Accessed September 10, 2009.

 American Heart Association. Learn and live. Available at: Accessed September 10, 2009.

 American Heart Association. My fats translator. Available at: Accessed September 10, 2009.

 Mayo Clinic. Heart-healthy diet: 7 steps to prevent heart disease. Available at: Accessed September 10, 2009.

 MedlinePlus. Heart diseases�prevention. Available at: Accessed September 10, 2009.

 National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. How you can lower your blood cholesterol: introduction to the heart healthy diet. Available at: Accessed September 10, 2009.