Q: I'm going to get my cholesterol checked. What exactly will they be measuring and what is considered a normal level?
Dr. Donnica: Total blood cholesterol is the most common measurement of blood cholesterol. Yet it is also important to know your HDL (the "good cholesterol") and LDL (the "bad cholesterol") levels as well. In adults, cholesterol is classified by levels. Your doctor must interpret your cholesterol numbers based on other risk factors. General guidelines are given below.
You may hear people talk about their "cholesterol ratio" (your total cholesterol divided by your HDL), but the AHA recommends that the absolute numbers for total blood cholesterol, HDL and LDL cholesterol levels be used. They are more useful to the physician than the cholesterol ratio in determining appropriate interventions. For those who do get "ratio" numbers from their doctors, your goal is to keep the ratio below 5:1; the ideal ratio is 3.5:1.
TOTAL CHOLESTEROL LEVELS:
HIGH RISK: 240 mg/dL or higher
BORDERLINE HIGH RISK: from 200 to 239 mg/dL
DESIRABLE: Less than 200 mg/Dl
HDL CHOLESTEROL LEVELS:
HIGH RISK: Less than 35 mg/dL
DESIRABLE: Above 35 mg/dL. **With HDL, we generally consider that the higher the level, the better the result.
While elevated total cholesterol is stereotypically considered more of an issue for men than women, recent studies show that more women than men have total blood cholesterol of 200 mg/dL or higher beginning at age 50.
LDL CHOLESTEROL LEVELS:
HIGH RISK: 160 mg/dL or higher
BORDERLINE HIGH RISK: 130-159 mg/dL
DESIRABLE: less than 130
Individuals who have had evidence of cardiovascular disease such as a previous heart attack, open-heart surgery, or an angioplasty procedure may need lower target levels for LDL and total cholesterol.
Please consult with your own physician.
Created: 9/24/2000  - Donnica Moore, M.D.