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Understanding Cholesterol Numbers — an article on the Smart Living Network
June 28, 2011 at 12:28 PMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Understanding Cholesterol Numbers


Everyone over the age of 20 should get their cholesterol levels measured at least once every 5 years. The test usually performed is a blood test called a lipoprotein profile. The lipoprotein profile includes:

  • LDL (low density lipoprotein cholesterol, also called "bad" cholesterol)
  • HDL (high density lipoprotein cholesterol, also called "good" cholesterol)
  • Triglycerides (fats carried in the blood from the food we eat. Excess calories, alcohol or sugar in the body are converted into triglycerides and stored in fat cells throughout the body.)

Results of your blood test will come in the forms of numbers. Here is how to interpret your cholesterol numbers:

LDL Cholesterol

LDL cholesterol can build up on the walls of your arteries and increase your chances of getting heart disease and is why LDL cholesterol is referred to as "bad" cholesterol. The lower your LDL cholesterol number, the better it is for your health. The table below explains what the numbers mean.

LDL Cholesterol

LDL-Cholesterol Category

Less than 100


100 - 129

Near optimal/above optimal

130 - 159

Borderline high

160 - 189


190 and above

Very high

If you have heart disease or blood vessel disease, some experts recommend you try to get your LDL cholesterol below 70. For people with diabetes or other multiple risk factors for heart disease, the treatment goal is to reach an LDL of less than 100.

HDL Cholesterol

When it comes to HDL cholesterol -- "good" cholesterol -- the higher the number, the better it is for your health. This is because HDL cholesterol protects against heart disease by taking the "bad" cholesterol out of your blood and keeping it from building up in your arteries. The table below explains what the numbers mean.

HDL Cholesterol

HDL-Cholesterol Category

60 and above

Optimal; helps to lower risk of heart disease

Less than 40 in men and less than 50 in women

Low; considered a risk factor for heart disease


Triglycerides are the chemical form most fat takes in food and the body. A high triglyceride level has been linked to the occurrence of coronary artery disease in some people. Here's the breakdown.


Triglyceride Category

Less than 150


150 - 199

Borderline high

200 - 499


500 or higher

Very high

Total Cholesterol

Your total blood cholesterol is a measure of LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and other lipid components. Doctors recommend total cholesterol levels below 200

Total Cholesterol


Less than 200


200 - 239

Borderline High

240 and above


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