What your Cholesterol Levels Mean
How’s your cholesterol? Time to get it checked!
Keeping your cholesterol levels healthy is a great way to keep your heart healthy – and lower your chances of getting heart disease or having a stroke.
But first, you have to know your cholesterol numbers.
The American Heart Association recommends all adults age 20 or older have their cholesterol, and other traditional risk factors, checked every four to six years.
Your test report will show your cholesterol levels in milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL). Your total cholesterol and HDL (good) cholesterol are among numerous factors now used to predict your lifetime or 10-year risk for a heart attack or stroke.
View an animation of cholesterol score.
Your test report will show your cholesterol levels in milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL). To determine how your cholesterol levels affect your risk of heart disease, your doctor will also take into account other risk factors such as age, family history, smoking and high blood pressure.
Your Total Blood (or Serum) Cholesterol
Your total cholesterol score is calculated by the following equation: HDL + LDL + 20% of your triglyceride level. A total cholesterol score of less than 180 mg/dL is considered optimal.
Your HDL (Good) Cholesterol
With HDL (good) cholesterol, higher levels are better. Low HDL cholesterol puts you at higher risk for heart disease. People with high blood triglycerides usually also have lower HDL cholesterol. Genetic factors, type 2 diabetes, and certain drugs, such as beta-blockers and anabolic steroids, also lower HDL cholesterol levels. Smoking, being overweight and being sedentary can all result in lower HDL cholesterol.
Your LDL (Bad) Cholesterol
A low LDL cholesterol level is considered good for your heart health. However, your LDL number should no longer be the main factor in guiding treatment to prevent heart attack and stroke, according to the latest guidelines from the American Heart Association. For patients taking statins, the guidelines say they no longer need to get LDL cholesterol levels down to a specific target number.
Triglyceride is the most common type of fat in the body. Normal triglyceride levels vary by age and sex. A high triglyceride level combined with low HDL cholesterol or high LDL cholesterol is associated with atherosclerosis, the buildup of fatty deposits in artery walls that increases the risk for heart attack and stroke.
Additional Information and External Resources
Cholesterol Tracker (document download)
This document is a printable sheet to help you track your cholesterol after doctor visits, healthy eating habits and your physical activity. Download the document with the link below!