Understanding Your Cholesterol Test Results
What Do Cholesterol Test Numbers Mean?
If you have a lipoprotein profile, it's important to look at all the numbers from the cholesterol test, not just the total cholesterol number. That's because LDL and HDL levels are two primary indicators of potential heart disease. Use the information below to interpret your results (with the help of your doctor, of course). This will help you get a better idea about your risk for heart disease.
Total blood cholesterol level:
- High risk: 240 mg/dL and above
- Borderline high risk: 200-239 mg/dL
- Desirable: Less than 200 mg/dL
LDL cholesterol levels:
190 mg/dL and above represents a high risk for heart disease and is a strong indicator that the individual can benefit from intensive treatment, including life style changes, diet, and statin therapy for reducing that risk.
For LDL levels that are equal to or less than 189 mg/dL, the guidelines recommend strategies for lowering LDL by 30% to 50% depending on what other risk factors you have that can affect the health of your heart and blood vessels.
- High risk: Less than 40 mg/dL
- Very high risk: 500 mg/dL and above
- High risk: 200-499 mg/dL
- Borderline high risk: 150-199 mg/dL
- Normal: Less than 150 mg/dL
How Do I Prepare for My Cholesterol Test?
If your doctor recommends a "non-fasting" cholesterol test, the lab will look only at your total cholesterol (and sometimes your HDL) numbers. For that test, you merely need to show up at the lab and have some blood drawn. If your doctor suggests a "fasting" cholesterol test (also called a "lipid profile"), the lab will analyze your levels of LDL, HDL, triglycerides, and total cholesterol. For that test, you will need to fast overnight before the blood test.
Sometimes a doctor will ask you to do a non-fasting cholesterol test first. Depending on the results, he or she may then send you back for the more complete lipid profile.
How Will My Doctor Use Results From My Cholesterol Test?
After reviewing your blood test, The doctor will also consider other risk factors you might have for heart disease, including:
- Your family history
- Blood pressure and whether or not you’re being treated for high blood pressure
- Activity level
- Smoking status
- History of diabetes
Then, your doctor will talk with you about your level of risk and the potential benefit to be derived by taking steps that include changes in your level of activity and diet as well as using medication to improve your cholesterol levels in order to reduce your overall risk.