What Do My Cholesterol Levels Mean?

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Since high blood cholesterol signals a higher risk of heart attack, it's important to have your cholesterol levels checked regularly and discuss them with your doctor. "Desirable levels" presented here are meant for the general population. Your particular profile is unique and your doctor will be able to interpret your results and how it relates to your health.

TOTAL BLOOD CHOLESTEROL is a first step in determining risk for heart disease.

Desrable Level: Less than 200 mg/dl (milligrams per deciliter of blood)
Borderline High: 200 to 239 mg/dl
High Risk: 240 mg/dl and higher


Knowing your HDL ("good") CHOLESTEROL is a critical 2nd step in determination of risk.

HDL stands for high density lipoprotein. HDL is considered the "good" cholesterol because it seems to protect you from having a heart attack. That means (unlike other cholesterol levels) the higher your HDL, the better.

You can raise your HDL by quitting smoking, losing excess weight, consuming a proper diet, and being more active. If you make healthful lifestyle changes you can raise your HDL and reduce your risk of heart attack.

  For Men For Women
Desirable Level: 45 mg/dl or higher 55 mg/dl or higher
At Risk: Less than 35 mg/dl Less than 45 mg/dl


Your LDL ("bad") CHOLESTEROL level is also critical in determination of risk.

LDL stands for low density lipoprotein. This is the main carrier of harmful cholesterol in your blood. A high level of LDL means there is a higher risk of heart disease. Your optimal level of LDL cholesterol is measured by your physician who considers your personal and family medical history, other risk factors, and your level of HDL cholesterol.

Desirable Level: Less than 130 mg/dl
Borderline: 130 to 159 mg/dl
High: 160 mg/dl or higher

If you already have heart or vascular disease, or if you are diabetic, the desirable level for LDL is less than 100 mg/dl. Many physicians now believe that patients with known vascular disease should have LDL levels less than 70 mg/dl, or even lower.

What should my TRIGLYCERIDE level be?

High triglyceride levels can result from being overweight, drinking a lot of alcohol, consumption of refined carbohydrates and saturated fats, or other disorders. Triglycerides are also affected by certain medical conditions like diabetes. Elevated triglycerides are linked to the occurrence of coronary artery disease, and are often associated with low HDL levels, and with high blood pressure and diabetes.

Normal: Less than 150 mg/dl
High: 150 to 400 mg/dl
Very High: Greater than 400 mg/dl

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