What Do Your Cholesterol Numbers Mean?
Everyone age 20 and older should have their cholesterol measured at least once every 5 years. It is best to have a blood test called a “lipoprotein profile” to find out your cholesterol numbers. This blood test is done after a 9 to 12-hour fast and gives information about your:
- Total cholesterol
- LDL (bad) cholesterol - the main source of cholesterol buildup and blockage in the arteries
- HDL (good) cholesterol - helps keep cholesterol from building up in the arteries
- Triglycerides - another form of fat in your blood
If it is not possible to get a lipoprotein profile done, knowing your total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol can give you a general idea about your cholesterol levels. If your total cholesterol is 200 mg/dL* or more or if your HDL is less than 40 mg/dL, you will need to have a lipoprotein profile done. See how your cholesterol numbers compare to the tables below.
HDL (good) cholesterol protects against Heart disease, so for HDL, higher numbers are better.
A level less than 40 mg/dL is low and is considered a major risk factor because it increases your risk for developing heart disease. HDL levels of 60 mg/dL or more help to lower your risk for heart disease.
Triglycerides can also raise heart disease risk. Levels that are borderline high (150-199 mg/dL) or high (200 mg/dL or more) may need treatment in some people.
|Total Cholesterol Level||Category|
|Less than 200 mg/dL||Desirable|
|200-239 mg/dL||Borderline high|
|240 mg/dL and above||High|
|LDL Cholesterol Level LDL||Cholesterol Category|
|Less than 100 mg/dL||Optimal|
|100-129 mg/dL||Near optimal/above optimal|
|130-159 mg/dL||Borderline high|
|190 mg/dL and above||Very high|
*Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood.
Revision date: June 22, 2011
Last revised: by David A. Scott, M.D.