Understanding Cholesterol Numbers
Cholesterol levels should be measured at least once every five years in everyone over age 20. The screening test that is usually performed is a blood test called a lipid profile. Experts recommend that men ages 35 and older and women ages 45 and older be more frequently screened for lipid disorders. 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 can build up on the walls of your arteries and increase your chances of getting heart disease. That is why LDL cholesterol is referred to as "bad" cholesterol. The lower your LDL cholesterol number, the lower your risk. The table below explains what the numbers mean.
|LDL Cholesterol||LDL-Cholesterol Category|
|Less than 100||Optimal|
|100 - 129||Near optimal/above optimal|
|130 - 159||Borderline high|
|160 - 189||High|
|190 and above||Very high|
If you have heart disease or blood vessel disease, some experts recommend that you should 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, although some physicians will be more aggressive.
When it comes to HDL cholesterol -- "good" cholesterol -- the higher the number, the lower your risk. 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||High; Optimal; associated with lower risk|
|Less than 40 in men and less than 50 in women||Low; considered a risk factor for heart disease|
Triglycerides are the chemical form in which most fat exists in food and the body. A high triglyceride level has been linked to higher risk of coronary artery disease. Here's the breakdown.
|Less than 150||Normal|
|150 - 199||Mildly High|
|200 - 499||High|
|500 or higher||Very high|
Your total blood cholesterol is a measure of LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and other lipid components. Doctors recommend total cholesterol levels below 200
|Less than 200||Desirable|
|200 - 239||Mildly High|
|240 and above||High|