Understanding Cholesterol Tests

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After receiving the results of your cholesterol test it is important that you understand them. Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood.

Total Cholesterol Level

A level of less than 200 mg/dL is desirable. But even levels of 200-239 mg/dL (borderline high) can increase your risk of heart disease. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Less than 200 mg/dL - Desirable
  • 200 - 239 mg/dL - Borderline high
  • 240 mg/dL and above - High

LDL (Bad) Cholesterol

A level of 160 mg/dL or above is high. Work with your health care provider to determine a LDL level goal that's best for you. Here’s how to interpret your measurements:

  • Less than 100 mg/dL - Optimal
  • 100-129 mg/dL - Near optimal/above optimal
  • 130-159 mg/dL - Borderline high
  • 160-189 mg/dL - High
  • 190 mg/dL and above - Very high

HDL (Good) Cholesterol

A level of 60 mg/dL or more is good and helps to lower your risk for heart disease. Remember that HDL (good) cholesterol protects against heart disease, so for HDL, higher numbers are better. A level less than 40 mg/dL is low and increases your risk for developing heart disease.

  • 60 mg/dL and above - Good
  • 59-40 mg/dL - Borderline
  • Less than 40 mg/dL - Low

Triglyceride Levels

Triglycerides can also raise your risk for heart disease. Levels that are borderline high (150-199 mg/dL) or high (200 mg/dL or more) may require diet, medication or other intervention.

  • Less than 150 mg/dL - Good
  • 150-199 mg/dL - Borderline high
  • 200 mg/dL and above - High

SOURCE: womenshealth.gov, National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health