Your Cholesterol Stats

March 21, 2017

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy, fatlike substance that your body produces. Cholesterol is used to make some hormones and build cell walls. Your body makes all the cholesterol you need. It's not important to include it in your diet.

Why should I have my cholesterol measured?

When the level of cholesterol in your blood is high, it builds up on the walls of your blood vessels. This makes the blood vessels narrower and decreases blood flow. Over time, narrowed blood vessels may cause you to have a heart attack or stroke. The only way to tell whether your cholesterol is high is to get it measured.

How is cholesterol measured?

Cholesterol is measured with a blood test called a lipoprotein profile. For the test, your health care provider's office or lab takes a sample of your blood after you have fasted for nine to 12 hours. The lipoprotein profile gives the most complete measurement of your cholesterol. A less complete test is one often given at shopping malls or health fairs. It involves a finger prick, and doesn't require you to fast beforehand.

How often should my cholesterol be measured?

You should have your cholesterol checked at least every five years, starting at age 20.

What do my cholesterol results mean?

The results of your cholesterol test will be broken down into these categories:

  • Total cholesterol. This measurement includes both LDL and HDL cholesterol, as well as other fats in your blood. Your total cholesterol should be less than 200 mg/dl. A measurement of 200 mg/dl to 239 mg/dl is considered borderline high, and 240 mg/dl and greater is high.

  • LDL (low-density lipoprotein) is known as "bad cholesterol." This cholesterol is what is deposited in your arteries. It increases your risk for heart disease and stroke. Your LDL level should be less than 100 mg/dl. A measurement of 100 mg/dl to 129 mg/dl is considered near optimal; 130 mg/dl to 150 mg/dl is considered borderline high; and 160 mg/dl and greater is high to very high.

  • HDL (high-density lipoprotein) is known as "good cholesterol." This cholesterol helps keep deposits from building up in your arteries. High levels of HDL cholesterol can reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke. Your HDL should be at least 40 mg/dl, because the more HDL cholesterol you have, the more protection you have against heart disease. A level of 40 mg/dl or less is low.

  • Triglycerides. These are another form of fat in your blood that can lead to blocked arteries. Your triglyceride level should be less than 150 mg/dl. A measurement of 150 mg/dl to 199 mg/dl is considered borderline high, and 200 mg/dl or greater is high.

What should I do if my numbers are out of range?

If your LDL cholesterol level is high, you should work to reduce it. A high LDL cholesterol level raises your risk for heart disease and stroke. Your health care provider may tell you to cut back on the amount of saturated fat. Only 30 percent of your total calories should come from any type of fat, of these calories, only 10 percent should be from saturated fat. Regular exercise, limiting alcohol, and achieving or maintaining a recommended weight can help improve your LDL, triglyceride and HDL levels. Medication also may be a part of your treatment plan.


March 21, 2017

Reviewed By:  

Godsey, Cynthia M.S., M.S.N., APRN,Lambert, J.G. M.D.,Louise AkinLouise Akin RN BSN