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A full continuum of cardiac care, see our list of cardiology services.
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Effective Monday, July 19, 2021, the following NOH/OMG office locations will no longer provide on-site blood draws: Westlake, Lorain, Olmsted Falls and Dewhurst. Click here for the nearest lab service location. 

Are Your Cholesterol Levels Too High?

April 1, 2021

High cholesterol or hypercholesterolemia affects nearly 93 million Americans over the age of 20. Another 63 million Americans have borderline high cholesterol. Excessive cholesterol can lead to a build-up of fatty deposits in our blood vessels or plaque formation. This can also lead to coronary artery disease, heart attacks, strokes and make it difficult for blood to flow to the lower part of your body (peripheral artery disease).

Current national guidelines call for getting a fasting cholesterol test every five years beginning at age 20. That's more than three decades away from prime heart-attack age — after age 55 for men and 65 for women. And if your cholesterol or lipid profile is abnormal, you may need to have it checked more frequently than that.

So, let’s take a look at where your cholesterol levels should be and how you can better control your cholesterol levels, just in case yours are a bit too high.

Reasons Your Cholesterol May Be Elevated

High cholesterol can be inherited, but it's often the result of unhealthy lifestyle choices, which make it preventable and treatable.

  • Family history- If there is a history of high cholesterol in your family you will be at an increased risk.
  • Diet- Foods that are high in cholesterol, such as red meat and full-fat dairy products, will increase your cholesterol.
  • Lack of exercise- Exercise helps boost your body's HDL, or "good," cholesterol.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption- Drinking too much alcohol can increase the levels of fats called triglycerides in the blood.
  • Underactive Thyroid- When thyroid hormone levels are low (hypothyroidism), your body doesn’t break down and remove LDL cholesterol as efficiently as usual.
  • Diabetes- High blood sugar damages the lining of your arteries and increases the amount of bad cholesterol in your system.
  • Chronic Kidney Disease- Some kidney conditions are associated with high cholesterol.

Desirable Cholesterol Levels

The goal for total cholesterol should be under 200.

Total Cholesterol                                  Less than 200 mg/dL
LDL (“bad”) cholesterol Less than 100 mg/dL
HDL (“good”) cholesterol Greater than or equal to 60 mg/dL
Triglycerides  Less than 150 mg/dL


  1. HDL Cholesterol is considered “good” cholesterol. High levels have been shown to decrease heart disease.  
  2. LDL Cholesterol is “bad” cholesterol and is associated with plaque formation. LDL levels depend on certain risk factors like age, gender, whether you are a smoker, have diabetes or hypertension. If you have multiple risk factors, you may want a LDL cholesterol as low as 70. If you are healthy and have no risk factors, it may be OK to have an LDL level as high as 160.
  3. Triglycerides are fat in your blood. They’re used to give energy to your body.  A high level has been linked to a greater chance for heart disease

Controlling Your Cholesterol Levels

A healthy diet, regular exercise and sometimes medication can help reduce high cholesterol.

  • Reduce intake of fat
  • Increase activity
  • Control other health issues (example: diabetes, high blood pressure)
  • Increase fiber in diet (try eating cereals, fruits and vegetables)

If your goal is not reached through behavior modification, there are medications we can use to improve your cholesterol.

The best way to track your cholesterol is by having a regularly scheduled blood test. Our guide “Decoding Your Lab Results” can help you. Inside you’ll find all of the information that will explain what your results mean—even cholesterol.

Decoding Your Lab Results