What Do My Cholesterol Levels Mean?
High blood cholesterol signals a higher
risk of heart attack and stroke. That’s
why it’s important to have your cholesterol
levels checked regularly and discuss them
with your doctor. A “lipoprotein profile” is a
test to find out your blood cholesterol
numbers. It gives information about total
cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol and HDL
(good) cholesterol, as well as triglycerides
All of these are measured in milligrams per
deciliter of blood (mg/dL).
Taking a small blood sample from a finger is one common
way that cholesterol levels can be measured.
What should my total cholesterol level be?
Total Blood Cholesterol Levels:
240 mg/dL and above = High blood
Less than 200 mg/dL = Desirable—lower risk
than twice the risk
200 to 239 mg/dL = Borderline high—
as desirable level
What should my HDL cholesterol level be?
HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein. HDL
can raise your HDL and reduce your risk of
is considered “good” cholesterol because it
heart attack and stroke.
seems to lower your risk of heart attack and
HDL Cholesterol Levels:
stroke. That means that — unlike other
Less than 40 mg/dL = Low HDL cholesterol—
cholesterol levels — the higher your HDL, the
40 to 59 mg/dL = The higher your HDL level,
You can raise your HDL by quitting smoking,
losing excess weight and being more active.
If you make healthful lifestyle changes, you
60 mg/dL and above = High HDL
What should my LDL cholesterol level be?
LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein. This
LDL Cholesterol Levels:
is the main carrier of harmful cholesterol in
Less than 100 mg/dL = Optimal for people
your blood. A high level of LDL cholesterol
with heart disease
means there’s a higher risk of heart disease
and stroke. The lower your LDL cholesterol
100 to 129 mg/dL = Near or above optimal
is, the lower your risk will be.
130 to 159 mg/dL = Borderline high
190 mg/dL and above = Very High
160 to 189 mg/dL = High
What should my triglyceride level be?
Triglycerides are the most common type of
above-normal fasting triglyceride levels (150
fat in your body. They’re also a major energy
mg/dL or higher) have a higher risk of heart
source. They come from food, and your
disease and stroke.
body also makes them. As people get older,
gain excess weight or both, their triglyceride
and cholesterol levels tend to rise.
Less than 150 mg/dL = Normal
150 to 199 mg/dL = Borderline high
Many people who have heart disease or
diabetes have high fasting triglyceride levels.
200-499 mg/dL = High
Some studies have shown that people with
190 mg/dL and above = Very High
My Cholesterol and Triglyceride Levels
Use the chart below to keep track of your cholesterol and triglyceride levels each time you have
a test. Make sure you discuss these numbers with your doctor.
Total blood cholesterol level
HDL cholesterol level
LDL cholesterol level
How can I learn more?
• Talk to your doctor, nurse or health care
• If you have high cholesterol, members of
professional. Or call your local American
your family also may be at higher risk for it.
Heart Association at 1-800-242-8721,
It’s very important for them to make
or the American Stroke Association at
changes now to lower their risk.
Do you have questions or comments for your doctor?
• Take a few minutes to write your own questions for the next time you see your doctor. For example:
What about other fats?
How often should I have my levels checked?
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