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Too much cholesterol in the blood can lead to cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States. Over 2,100 Americans die of cardiovascular disease each day, an average of one death every 40 seconds.

The good news is, you can lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.

High blood cholesterol is treated with lifestyle changes and medicines. The main goal of treatment is to lower your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol level enough to reduce your risk for coronary heart disease, heart attack, and other related health problems.

Your risk for heart disease and heart attack goes up as your LDL cholesterol level rises and your number of heart disease risk factors increases.

Based on your medical history, number of risk factors, and risk score, figure out your risk of getting heart disease or having a heart attack using the table below.

If You Have
You Are in Category
Your LDL Goal Is
Heart disease, diabetes, or a risk score higher than 20%
High risk
Less than 100 mg/dL
Two or more risk factors and a risk score of 10–20%
Moderately high risk
Less than 130 mg/dL
Two or more risk factors and a risk score lower than 10%
Moderate risk
Less than 130 mg/dL
One or no risk factors
Low to moderate risk
Less than 160 mg/dL

Some people in this category are at very high risk because they’ve just had a heart attack or they have diabetes and heart disease, severe risk factors, or metabolic syndrome. If you’re at very high risk, your doctor may set your LDL goal even lower, to less than 70 mg/dL. Your doctor also may set your LDL goal at this lower level if you have heart disease alone.

After following the above steps, you should have an idea about your risk for heart disease and heart attack. The two main ways to lower your cholesterol (and, thus, your heart disease risk) include:

  • Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) - TLC is a three-part program that includes a healthy diet, weight management, and physical activity. TLC is for anyone whose LDL cholesterol level is above goal.
  • Medicines- If cholesterol-lowering medicines are needed, they’re used with the TLC program to help lower your LDL cholesterol level.

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