A blood test is the only way to diagnose high cholesterol. It measures total cholesterol, LDL (“bad” cholesterol), HDL (“good” cholesterol) and triglycerides. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adults have cholesterol levels checked every five years, but your doctor may want to check more frequently if you are high-risk. This is how the results are measured:

Total Cholesterol

  • Normal: Less than 200 mg/dL
  • Borderline: 200-239 mg/dL
  • High: 240 mg/dl and over

Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL)

  • Normal: Less than 100 mg/dL
  • Borderline: 100-159 mg/dL
  • High: 160-189 mg/dL

High Density Lipoproteins (HDL)(protective)

  • Normal: 60 mg/dL or higher
  • Borderline: 40-60 mg/dL
  • High: 40 mg/dL or less

Triglycerides

  • Normal: Less than 150 mg/dL
  • Borderline: 150-200 mg/dL
  • High: 200 mg/dL and above

Common Medications and Treatments for High Cholesterol

Once you are diagnosed with high cholesterol, it is important to begin treatment immediately. Early action can help to decrease your risk for strokes, heart attacks or heart disease.

Eating right, maintaining a healthy weight and getting plenty of exercise can help to decrease LDL and increase HDL. In addition to making lifestyle changes, many people with high cholesterol will need to take medication to control the condition. These drugs treat cholesterol problems by:

  • Decreasing cholesterol production
  • Lowering cholesterol absorption in the gastrointestinal tract
  • Promoting the rate of cholesterol elimination with bile acids
  • Preventing cholesterol build-up in the arteries

Types of Medications for Treating High Cholesterol

  • Statins (Lipitor, Lescol, Altoprev): Decreases production of cholesterol by blocking an enzyme the liver needs for making it
  • Bile acid sequestrants (Prevalite, Welchol, Colestid): Makes the liver use cholesterol to make bile acids, which lowers LDL; can be used alone or in combination with statins
  • Fibric acids (TriCor, Fenoglide, Lopid): Lowers triglycerides and raises HDL levels; often used in combination with statins to decrease LDL
  • Cholesterol absorption inhibitors (Zetia): Decreases the absorption of dietary cholesterol; often used in combination with statins
  • PCSK9 inhibitors (Praluent, Rapatha): Injectable drugs that help the liver absorb LDL; often used in people who can’t take statins or other cholesterol medications

Alternative Therapies for High Cholesterol

Drugs for high cholesterol have some serious side effects, including liver and muscle problems. To avoid potential complications, many patients are turning to more natural remedies to treat the condition, including:

  • Beta sitosterol (Found in soybeans, wheat germ and corn oil): Decreases cholesterol absorption
  • Green tea extract: Decreases LDL, decreases triglycerides, increases HDL
  • Guggulipid extract: An Indian herb that lowers all cholesterol types
  • Policosanol (Found in sugar cane wax): Decreases LDL, increases HDL