Understanding Cholesterol Numbers

by Katelyn Schwanke
(last updated September 5, 2008)

Every person over the age of twenty should have a lipid profile (cholesterol screening) done at least once every five years. The next time you are screened for cholesterol levels, your doctor may provide you with several different values. Understanding what the various cholesterol values are will aid you in asking the right questions so that you can be as healthy as possible.

There are four basic categories that are addressed in a lipid profile:

  • Total cholesterol
  • LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol)
  • HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol)
  • Triglycerides

Before discussing appropriate ranges for each of the categories, it's important to understand what each category actually is. Total cholesterol is a number that reflects how much cholesterol, in total, is in your body. Total cholesterol is a comprehensive number, meaning that it is made up of all the other cholesterol categories.

LDL cholesterol is considered "bad" cholesterol because it represents the type of cholesterol that clogs up the inside of your veins and arteries. HDL cholesterol is considered "good" cholesterol because it decreases the amount of buildup inside your veins and arteries by transporting the LDL cholesterol back to the liver where it can be eliminated from the body. Triglycerides are your body's fat storage, if you have higher triglycerides than you have a higher amount of body fat.

Acceptable ranges for lipids have been established by the National Cholesterol Education Program. Desirable levels are less than 200 for triglycerides, less than 130 for LDL, 50 or higher for HDL, and less than 200 for total cholesterol.

Borderline levels are defined as triglyderides in the 200 to 399 range, LDL in the 130 to 159 range, HDL in the 40 to 49 range, and total cholesterol in the 200 to 239 range. Anything higer than these ranges (or lower in the case of HDL levels) is considered "high" and will probably be treated medically by your doctor.

If you have any further questions regarding your cholesterol levels, be sure to ask your doctor so that you know which areas of personal cholesterol you need to improve.

Author Bio

Katelyn Schwanke

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