Harvard Heart Letter

Keys to managing your cholesterol

Diet, exercise, and drugs can lower the bad and raise the good.

Cholesterol comes in two basic forms. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad" cholesterol, contributes to clogged arteries. High-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, keeps the bad stuff from accumulating. So your LDL number should be low and your HDL number should be high.

Your target LDL depends on your risk for heart attack or stroke, which you can calculate by going to health.harvard.edu/147. Current LDL targets range from less than 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) for people who've already had a heart attack or stroke to 160 mg/dL for those with no risk factors or cardiovascular health problems. However, these targets could very well change when updated guidelines are released.

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