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Cholesterol - what to ask your doctor


Your body needs cholesterol to work properly. When you have extra cholesterol in your blood, it builds up inside the walls of your arteries (blood vessels), including the ones that go to your heart. This buildup is called plaque.

Plaque narrows your arteries and slows or stops the blood flow. This can cause a heart attack, stroke, or other serious heart disease.

Below are some questions you may want to ask your health care provider to help you take care of your cholesterol.

Alternate Names

Hyperlipidemia - what to ask your doctor; What to ask your doctor about cholesterol


What is my cholesterol level? What should my cholesterol level be?

  • What are HDL ("good") cholesterol and LDL ("bad") cholesterol?
  • Does my cholesterol need to be better?
  • How often should I have my cholesterol checked?

What medicines am I taking to treat high cholesterol?

  • Do they have any side effects?
  • What should I do if I miss a dose?
  • Are there foods, other medicines, vitamins, or herbal supplements that may change how well my cholesterol medicines work?

What is a heart-healthy diet?

  • What are low-fat foods?
  • What types of fat are okay for me to eat?
  • How can I read a food label to know how much fat there is?
  • Is it ever okay to eat something that is not heart healthy?
  • What are some ways to eat healthy when I go to a restaurant? Can I ever go to a fast-food restaurant again?
  • Do I need to limit how much salt I use? Can I use other spices to make my food taste good?
  • Is it ok to drink any alcohol?

What can I do to stop smoking?

Should I start an exercise program?

  • Is it safe for me to exercise on my own?
  • Where should I exercise, inside or outside?
  • Which activities are better to start with?
  • Are there activities or exercises that are not safe for me?
  • Can I exercise most days?
  • How long and how hard can I exercise?
  • What symptoms may I need to watch out for?


Stone NJ, Robinson JG, Lichtenstein AH, Bairey Merz CN, Blum CB, Eckel RH, et al. 2013 ACC/AHA guideline on the treatment of blood cholesterol to reduce atherosclerotic cardiovascular risk in adults: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2014 Jul 1;63(25 Pt B):2889-934. PMID: 24239923

Review Date: 10/26/2014
Reviewed By: Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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