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Understanding Cholesterol Levels

When it comes to cholesterol, there’s good and there’s bad. And research says, for a healthy heart, you need to manage both.

Get help understanding good and bad cholesterol levels

A Look at the Numbers

To fully understand cholesterol, it helps to have a deeper sense of what your individual levels mean—especially when it comes to the bad kind of cholesterol, LDL cholesterol (also known as LDL-C).

If you have other health conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, you have an increased chance of developing cardiovascular disease, and even more of a reason to pay closer attention to your numbers.

Help Someone You Care About Take Down Cholesterol

It’s important to get your LDL-C measured to learn what’s ideal for you and when it’s time to make a change. Together, you and your healthcare provider may decide on a cholesterol goal. Here are a few suggestions from the National Lipid Association (NLA):

NLA CLASSIFICATIONS FOR LDL-C LEVELS
<100 mg/dL DESIRABLE
100-129 mg/dL ABOVE DESIRABLE
130-159 mg/dL BORDERLINE HIGH
160-189 mg/dL HIGH
≥190 mg/dL VERY HIGH

For most adults, an LDL-C level below 100 mg/dL is considered optimal. But if you have other conditions, like hypertension or diabetes, or experienced a cardiovascular event that increases your risk, a 50% reduction or LDL-C goal of less than 70 mg/dL may be suggested.

NLA CLASSIFICATIONS FOR HDL-C LEVELS
<40 mg/dL (MEN) LOW
<50 mg/dL (WOMEN) LOW
NLA CLASSIFICATIONS FOR TRIGLYCERIDE LEVELS
<150 mg/dL NORMAL
150-199 mg/dL BORDERLINE HIGH
200-499 mg/dL HIGH
≥500 mg/dL VERY HIGH
Standard total cholesterol goals for adults
<200 mg/dL DESIRABLE
200 - 239 mg/dL BORDERLINE
>240 mg/dL HIGH

Triglycerides and HDL are part of your total cholesterol count, and healthy levels can often be reached through diet and exercise. LDL-C, on the other hand, is a bit more stubborn, and may require cholesterol-lowering medication to help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.