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 LevelCategory
Less than 200 mg/dLDesirable
200-239 mg/dLBorderline high
240 mg/dL and aboveHigh
 
LDL Cholesterol Level LDLCholesterol Category
Less than 100 mg/dLOptimal
100-129 mg/dLNear optimal/above optimal
130-159 mg/dLBorderline high
160-189 mg/dLHigh
190 mg/dL and above Very high

*Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood.

Provided by ArmMed Media
Revision date: June 14, 2011
Last revised: by Amalia K. Gagarina, M.S., R.D.