What is Borderline Cholesterol?

Has your doctor told you that you have "borderline" high cholesterol? That means your cholesterol level is above normal but not quite in the "high" range.

You have borderline high cholesterol if your total cholesterol is between 200 and 239 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).

Your doctor will also consider other things, like how much of your total cholesterol is LDL ("bad") cholesterol and how much of it is HDL ("good") cholesterol.

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Making simple changes in your lifestyle is often enough to bring borderline cholesterol levels down to the normal range. Some people may also need to take medicine for it. And keep in mind that other things, like diabetes, high blood pressure, and smoking, also affect your heart health; it's not just about cholesterol.

If you have borderline cholesterol, your doctor will decide whether you need treatment by looking at these and other risk factors for heart disease. They may ask you to get an imaging test of your heart called a coronary artery calcium (CAC) scan. This test reveals whether dangerous plaque has built up in your heart's arteries.

You won't know you have borderline cholesterol unless you get a cholesterol blood test. You should do that every 5 years.

The average American has a total cholesterol level of 200, which is in the borderline range.

You can turn it around before you get high cholesterol. Start with these six steps.

Make Changes in the Kitchen

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Use your diet to help lower your LDL cholesterol and raise your HDL cholesterol.

For the biggest impact, choose foods that are low in saturated fats and trans fats, and high in fiber, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids. Whole grains, beans, apples, pears, oatmeal, salmon, walnuts, and olive oil are excellent heart-healthy choices.

Here are some more diet tips to help you lower your cholesterol:

Make meat lean. Cut back on red meats that are high in saturated fat and cholesterol, and choose only lean meats with very little visible fat. Examples of lean beef include London broil, eye of round, and filet mignon. Avoid processed meats like bacon and sausage, which are linked to higher odds of heart disease and diabetes.

Remove skin from poultry. That's where much of the fat is.

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Eat more seafood. It usually has less fat than other meat. The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fatty fish (like salmon, tuna, or mackerel) each week for heart health. Those fish are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for you.

Limit saturated fat. These are found in whole-fat dairy products, mayonnaise, and hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils or fats (such as stick margarine). These products may also contain trans fats, which can raise your cholesterol level.

Go liquid. For cooking, replace saturated fats that are solid at room temperature (such as butter and shortening) with liquid monounsaturated fats such as olive, canola, and flaxseed oils. There’s evidence that eating moderate amounts of monounsaturated fat -- found in such foods as nuts, seeds, and avocados -- may lower LDL cholesterol.

Add fiber with plant foods. Good sources include grapefruits, apples, beans and other legumes, barley, carrots, cabbage, and oatmeal.

Get two daily servings of plant sterol-rich foods. These foods, such as nuts, can help lower cholesterol. Plant sterols are also added to some soft margarines, granola bars, yogurts, and orange juice.

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