Understanding Your Cholesterol Report
How to Read Your Lipid Panel continued...
Based on your risk for heart disease, your doctor will discuss with you strategies for lowering your LDL by a certain percentage. Those strategies will include lifestyle changes -- including dietary changes and exercise -- as well as the use of cholesterol lowering medication. Together, you and your doctor will decide on the appropriate strategies for your particular situation.
High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL)
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is good cholesterol. Think of the "H" in HDL as "healthy" to remember this cholesterol type as the good kind.
HDL helps carry bad cholesterol out of the bloodstream and arteries. It plays a very important role in preventing clogged arteries. So, the higher the HDL number, the better.
In general, HDL levels of 60 mg/dL or higher are considered to be good. Likewise, levels below 40 mg/dL are considered a risk factor for heart disease. But it's important to discuss with your doctor what level is best in your particular case.
Certain medications, including steroids, blood pressure drugs known as beta blockers, and some ‘water pills’ can interfere with HDL levels. Make sure your doctor always knows about all the medications you are taking.
Triglycerides are a type of blood fat that has been linked to heart disease and diabetes. If you have high triglycerides, your total cholesterol and LDL levels may be high, as well.
- Normal: less than 150 mg/dL
- Borderline-High: 150–199 mg/dL
- High: 200–499 mg/dL
- Very High: 500 mg/dL
Lifestyle plays a large role in your triglyceride level. Smoking, excessive drinking, uncontrolled diabetes, and medications such as estrogen, steroids, and some acne treatments can contribute to high triglyceride levels. However, in some cases, genes or an underlying disease can be the cause.
Total Cholesterol to HDL Ratio
This number is not always listed on a cholesterol report. Some doctors use this instead of the total cholesterol level to help decide on an approach to lowering cholesterol. However, the American Heart Association recommends that focussing on actual values rather than ratios is more useful in determining treatment.