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February 2021

What is the Optimal Blood Cholesterol Level?

When it comes to optimal blood cholesterol levels, there is more to consider than just the total blood cholesterol.  Cholesterol circulates in the blood in particles called lipoproteins.  A lipid panel will measure the individual lipoproteins and triglycerides in the blood. Your physician will be able to assess risk for cardiovascular disease and treatment based on these results.

Interpreting the Results – Know the Numbers

Total Cholesterol – made up of LDL, HDL and VLDL cholesterol. 

A desirable level of total cholesterol is less than 200

LDL-Cholesterol – known as “bad” cholesterol since it deposits on the inside of blood vessels to form plaque. Elevated LDL increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. 

An optimal level of LDL is less than 100; with coronary artery disease below 70

HDL-Cholesterol – referred to as the “good” cholesterol as it can decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease.  Ideal is 60 or higher.

Men should have an HDL of at least 40 and women a minimum of 50

Triglycerides – the most common type of fat in the body. High triglycerides may increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Triglycerides should be less than 149; ideal is below 100

NOTE:  Be sure to fast 9-12 hours before your lipid panel test for accurate LDL, VLDL and triglyceride results.

Tips to Lower Cholesterol Levels- Eating healthy and leading an active lifestyle can help manage cholesterol.

  • Choose Heart Healthy Foods – with an emphasis on minimally processed foods that are rich in fiber. Include colorful vegetables and fruits, whole grains, lean protein with fish at least 2-3x a week and reduced-fat dairy products.
  • Limit Saturated Fats & Avoid Trans-Fats- include healthy fats such as nuts, avocado and olive oil in moderation.
  • Minimize Added Sugar - have fresh fruit for dessert.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight, be physically active and do not smoke.

Beyond the Numbers – Optimal Cholesterol Ratio

Research suggests that the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol (HDL-C) is a better determinant of cardiovascular risk than the total individual cholesterol values, especially total cholesterol.

This ratio should be included on the lab results.  If not, calculate by dividing total cholesterol by HDL.


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