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About Cholesterol Levels

In order to understand what your cholesterol numbers mean, you first need to know about cholesterol levels.

If you have your cholesterol level checked by a doctor* you will usually get 4 different numbers:

See the tables below to see how each of your cholesterol levels compare.

* Please note:  if you just get your cholesterol levels checked in a drugstore or pharmacy you will usually just receive two numbers:  your total cholesterol level and your HDL cholesterol level.  If your total cholesterol is 200 or more OR your HDL level is less than 40 you need to see your doctor for a full cholesterol level screening. 

Total Cholesterol Level:

Total Cholesterol Level Category
Less than 200 Desirable
200-239 Borderline High
240 and above High

LDL Cholesterol (Bad Cholesterol):

LDL Cholesterol Level 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

Factors that can affect your LDL level are:

  • Cigarette smoking
  • High Blood Pressure (140/90 or higher or on blood pressure medication)
  • Low HDL cholesterol (less than 40)
  • Family history of early heart disease (heart disease in father or brother before age 55; heart disease in mother or sister before age 65)
  • Age (men 45 years or older; women 55 years or older)

HDL Cholesterol (Good Cholesterol):

HDL cholesterol protects against heart disease, so for HDL, higher numbers are better.

A cholesterol level less than 40 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) or high (200 or above) may require treatment.


Click here for information about Lowering your Cholesterol. 

Cholesterol - What your Cholesterol numbers mean - Lowering your Cholesterol - Diet for Lowering Cholesterol - Low Cholesterol Recipes


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about cholesterol levels