How To Understand Your Cholesterol Numbers


In order to check your cholesterol levels, your doctor will need to get a sample of your blood.

A blood test is a relatively painless, outpatient procedure, taking only a few minutes.

If you’re getting a full lipid profile done, your doctor may request that you fast for a length of time before the blood sample is drawn.

Cholesterol level testing recommendations by the American Heart Association
Your test report shows your cholesterol levels in milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL).

Total cholesterol and HDL (good) cholesterol are among numerous factors (including your age, genetics & family history, and whether or not your have high blood pressure or smoke) that your doctor uses to asses your current and future risks for strokes and heart attacks.

A complete fasting lipoprotein profile will give the following information:

Total blood (or serum) cholesterol – This is a composite number of the different types of cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

HDL (good) cholesterol – Today, doctors evaluate HDL cholesterol levels in context with other risk factors. People with high blood triglycerides frequently have lower HDL cholesterol.

HDL cholesterol levels can also be lowered by genetic factors, type 2 diabetes, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, & obesity. Men tend to have lower HDL levels than women.

LDL (bad) cholesterol – Seeing a low number here is good. LDL cholesterol levels can be raised by a diet high in saturated and trans fats.

Triglycerides – People with high triglycerides often have a high total cholesterol level, including a high LDL cholesterol level and a low HDL cholesterol level. Many people with heart disease or diabetes also have high triglyceride levels.

Several factors can raise triglyceride levels – obesity, physical inactivity, smoking, alcohol consumption, a high carbohydrate diet, especially processed carbohydrates. There are also some underlying diseases and genetic disorders that may cause high triglyceride levels.

General Guideline for cholesterol levels

LDL: 70 to 130 mg/dL (Low numbers are good.)

HDL: more than 40 to 60 mg/dL (High numbers are good.)

Total cholesterol: less than 200 mg/dL (Low numbers are good.)

Triglycerides: 10 to 150 mg/dL (Low numbers are good.)

Please remember that other risk factors need to be taken into consideration when determining your health. Your doctor can explain your lipid panel numbers to you and can help you to understand how your own health factors contribute to your risks for heart disease.


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