What are some resources to use in understanding cholesterol?

When you are first diagnosed with high cholesterol, there can be a lot of worry, and a lot of jargon. If you are lucky, your doctor gave you a handout so you can do some online exploration. But often, doctors bandy about terms like HDL, LDL and Triglycerides and diseases like Atherosclerosis very quickly, and it can be overwhelming. The following are online, reliable resources and reference tools so you can take your time and learn about cholesterol. Each section contains references to detailed yet understandable information about topics like cholesterol in general, health risk factors, interpreting cholesterol test results, nutrition guidelines, and a list of top 5 foods that can help lower cholesterol.

Cholesterol Overview

The American Heart Association has a very good cholesterol overview, written in "regular-person" speak. It explains that cholesterol in and of itself is not bad and is produced both by our bodies and from the foods we eat. Scrolling through this article, you will find an explanation of "good" and "bad" cholesterol, and there is even an animation if you really want to get a visual of what cholesterol is and how it works in your body.

Risk Factors

The Mayo Clinic is another excellent online source for reliable, easy-to-understand cholesterol information. If your doctor spoke with you about risk factors, you may want to review this list detailing seven conditions which, when combined with high cholesterol, elevate heart disease risk. You may already know that obesity, poor diet and a family history of heart disease elevate heart disease risk, but did you know that lack of exercise and obesity are also risk factors?

Interpreting Test Results

If your doctor prescribed a fasting blood test, you probably had a "lipid panel" or "lipid profile" cholesterol test. You likely know the "total cholesterol" goal is at or under that "magic 200" figure, but what about those HDL and LDL numbers, and triglycerides? What are the target levels for each of those? The Mayo Clinic site offers an excellent reference page that explains the targets for each key cholesterol measure.

Nutrition - Cholesterol Guidelines

A low-fat diet is something your doctor likely mentioned as part of a cholesterol-lowering lifestyle change, but what does that mean, exactly? What is the difference between total fat, trans fat and all those other fats? How much dietary fat is OK, anyway? And what about protein, carbohydrates and dietary cholesterol -- how do these factor in, and what levels should one target as part of a cholesterol-watching diet? The Cleveland Clinic's Nutrition-Cholesterol Guidelines article is a terrific resource that both explains each of these nutritional elements and gives a target for daily consumption. And there's a handy chart that summarizes it all in one place.

Top 5 Foods To Lower Cholesterol

Overall nutritional guidelines are important, but can be hard to put into practice. If the nutrition chart works for you, great. But if that's too much information, check out the Mayo Clinic's list of Top 5 Foods that can help lower cholesterol. Along with exercise and other healthy habits, the Mayo Clinic list includes: 1) high-fiber foods like oatmeal and oat bran, 2) fish or other foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, 3) nuts, like almonds and walnuts, 4) olive oil, and 5) foods or supplements containing plant sterols. More on this list -- including examples of foods in each of these 5 categories -- can be found on the Mayo Clinic site.


Ask your doctor for a copy of your cholesterol blood tests, and keep them in a folder or online file. You'll want to keep track of your own cholesterol results as it's likely you'll have a cholesterol test every six months or at least annually. The numbers are important -- and surprisingly easy to forget.

There's a lot of uncertainty and jargon to cope with when you are diagnosed with high cholesterol. These medically reliable, online resources can provide key information about high cholesterol, and provide the tools and facts you need to plan a course of action with your doctor.