Americans are bringing down their cholesterol levels

High up on your to-do list of heart disease prevention strategies—along with lowering your blood pressure and keeping your weight in a healthy range—should be controlling your cholesterol level. According to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics, Americans have been trying to do that: our collective cholesterol numbers are on the decline. That’s good news, because having high cholesterol puts us at greater risk for heart attacks and strokes.

The report, which used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), found that the percentage of women with high cholesterol slipped from 19.1% to 14.3%, while the percentage of men with it dropped from 17.2% to 12.2% over the last decade. Men under age 60 did a better job of controlling cholesterol than women, while women over age 60 had greater improvements in cholesterol than men. Whether these numbers will translate into a lower risk for heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes remains to be seen—but it’s a good start.

Keeping harmful low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol as low as possible is especially important for women after menopause. Before menopause, estrogen boosts the supply of protective high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol that helps remove LDL from the bloodstream. After menopause, women no longer have access to that heart-protective hormone. Men need to watch their cholesterol levels over a longer stretch of time because their risk for heart disease starts earlier—in their mid-40s.

Overall, 13.4% of adults currently have high cholesterol, which beats the government’s Healthy People 2010 target of 17% or less. Where we’re falling just short is in checking our cholesterol. About 70% of women and 66% of men had their cholesterol tested in the past 5 years—slightly under the 80% objective.

You should be getting that test, which measures total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides, at least once every five years. Ideally, you want these results:

  • total cholesterol—less than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)
  • protective HDL cholesterol—60 mg/dL or higher
  • harmful LDL cholesterol—less than 100 mg/dL
  • triglycerides—less than 150 mg/dL

If your numbers aren’t quite where they should be, there are a number of ways you can help bring them back into a healthy range. Many people turn to a statin or other cholesterol-lowering medication. But it makes sense to try diet and exercise first.

Different foods lower cholesterol in various ways. Some deliver soluble fiber, which binds cholesterol in the digestive system and drags them out of the body before they get into circulation. Some give you polyunsaturated fats, which directly lower LDL. And some contain plant sterols and stanols, which block the body from absorbing cholesterol.

Many foods can help lower cholesterol. Here are 10 described in the Harvard Heart Letter. (You can read the full article here.)

  • oats
  • barley and other whole grains
  • beans
  • eggplant and okra
  • nuts
  • liquid vegetable oils (canola, sunflower, etc.) when used in place of butter, lard, or shortening
  • apples, grapes, strawberries, and citrus fruits
  • margarines and other foods fortified with sterols and stanols
  • soy
  • fatty fish

Related Information: What to do about High Cholesterol


  1. nahid naznin

    Thats a very good news.thanks for the article.
    Omega-3 fatty acids help to lower blood cholesterol levels. They are also important for cardiovascular health. Omega-3 is found in oily fishes such as tuna, salmon, shrimp, and Pollock; flax seed, walnuts.

  2. Thiruvelan

    From fat metabolism it is clear that only 1/3 of the required cholesterol is got from dietary cholesterol. So many discuss that dietary management does not help in cholesterol management, but once you are diagnosed as high cholesterol means there is some problem with your fat metabolism. In such persons (people with high cholesterol) dietary management surely helps to manage their blood cholesterol level.

  3. Anonymous

    Good news! today people have a higher awareness to maintain their health and be more selective in choosing food. very informative article.


  4. Jack

    Yes I agree that more and more Americans as well as the rest of the world must aware their cholesterol levels. Today many foods that can trigger high cholesterols.

  5. Anonymous

    Great article! Thanks! It again shows the importance of a well-balanced diet. The challenge, however, is not to convince those who are really interested in healthy food, but those who aren’t, especially kids!

  6. Annalyn Bert

    I am a working mother and my business demands for beautiful figures so I really have to maintain my postures and body. At first I feel a pressure on this situation and I really looked for a product that could make me slim without scarifying the health of my daughter. I try several products out their but seems no effect to me at all instead of slimming me down, this even make me fatter. I am really disappointed with all of that products until my friend recommend Gluten Free Diet. This is very effective because even though I kept on eating to breastfeed my daughter, my body was always on shape. Thanks to my friends and to this product. I am sharing this to you to give you an idea on how to manage you lifestyle fitness. Thanks and God bless us all.

  7. Anonymous

    I think it’s an alarming facts that you hear more and more about people having heart diseased and a high cholesterol level. On the other hand, research hes been improved rapidly the last years. So there is much more investigation. That also explains why you hear and read a lot lately about this subject… Still, go for a healthy lifestyle!

  8. ben

    verry imformative blog, specialy the part of certain foods lowering cholesterol. thank you

  9. Jack Petersson

    Mam I was so inspired by your article and i just want to share my own idea and hope this help also. Thanks.

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  10. Brain Food

    I don’t know what has caused this by something is going on. I have also noticed a higher number of people around my city running and being involved in physical fitness stuff. My run club has more than quadrupled in the past year or so. Great to see people being active and taking care of themselves.

  11. Alen

    Never knew so much before about cholesterol and its implication on health but sure have got enough information that now I think me and my family should watch out for our cholesterol.

    Kind regards,

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