Dear Dr. Roach • I am a 52-year-old female. During my annual exam this year, my fasting cholesterol came back at 217. I usually come in around 170-180. I am not overweight, do not smoke, eat well (not lot of fatty foods) and exercise on a daily basisby walking 1.5-2 miles. In the note given to me by my doctor, she stated to start practicing better habits to reduce the level, except I am already doing it. My mom does have some signs of heart disease at 75. Am I at risk? What other things could I be doing to reduce this number? — M.L.M.

Answer • It is wise not to get too upset about a single reading, especially when multiple readings have been less concerning. Like all body functions, cholesterol levels change somewhat from day to day and even within the same day. Eating well and exercising regularly are good pieces of advice, but if you are already doing so, then your doctor should carefully evaluate your risk to decide whether medication is appropriate.

This means looking at several cholesterol results — and the different types of cholesterol, especially HDL and LDL. I would be very surprised to find your risk high enough to recommended medication, even with a mom with heart disease at 75, which is not a major risk factor.