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Cholesterol and Triglyceride Management Guide


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.

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.

Saturated fat is found in:

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

Tips to decrease saturated fat

Instead of Choose
Butter Reduced-fat varieties or substitutes
(look for the words “lite” or “fat free”)
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
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

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:

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

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, as well as those at high risk for 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.  The recommendation 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% to 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.


How can I make better choices?
Compare food labels when shopping, 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 Category
<200 mg/dL Desirable
200-239 mg/dL Borderline high
240 mg/dL and above High
LDL Cholesterol Levels
<100 mg/dL Desirable
100-129 mg/dL Elevated
130-159 mg/dL Borderline high
160-189 mg/dL High
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 Desirable
150-199 mg/dL Borderline high
200 mg/dL or higher High
Glucose (fasting)
<100 mg/dL Desirable
100-125 mg/dL Prediabetes
126 mg/dL or higher Diabetes
Blood Pressure
<120/<80 Normal
120-139/80-90 Prehypertension
140-159/90-99 Stage 1 hypertension
>160/>100 Stage 2 hypertension
>180/>110 Severe hypertension

<=less than, >=greater than, CAD=coronary artery disease,
dL=deciliter, mg=milligram


How can you 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
Know your fats. American Heart Association® Web site. Accessed April 3, 2014.

Mayo Clinic staff. Heart-healthy diet: 8 steps to prevent heart disease. Mayo Clinic Web site. Accessed April 3, 2014.

MedlinePlus. Heart diseases—prevention. US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. Accessed April 3, 2014.

My fats translator. American Heart Association Web site. Accessed April 3, 2014.

US Dept of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Cholesterol With TLC. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health; 2005. NIH publication 06-5235.

Contributed by Shawna Gornick-Ilagan, MS, RD, CWPC
Updated by staff

Review Date 4/14


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