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What are Normal Cholesterol Levels?

A complete fasting lipoprotein profile will show your total blood or serum cholesterol level, your HDL or good cholesterol level, your LDL or bad cholesterol level, triglyceride level and in some test the lipoprotein (a) level as well.

Your total cholesterol level should be 200mg/dL (5.2 mmol/L) or less. Your LDL or bad cholesterol level should be 100 mg/dL (2.6 mmol/L) or less while triglycerides level should be 150 mg/dL (1.7 mmol/L) or less. HDL or good cholesterol level should be above 40 mg/dL (1.04 mmol/L) for men and above 50 mg/dL (1.29 mmol/L) for women. Lipoprotein (a) levels should be less than 30 mg/L.

With HDL or good cholesterol, higher levels are better. An HDL cholesterol of 60 mg/dL (1.5 mmol/L) or higher gives some protection against heart disease. To raise your HDL level, avoid tobacco smoke, maintain a healthy weight and get at least 30–60 minutes of physical activity more days than not.

A total cholesterol level of less than 200 mg/dL (5.2 mmol/L) is desirable and puts you at lower risk for coronary heart disease. A level between 200 (5.2) to 239 mg/dL (6.2 mmol/L) is considered borderline high while a reading above 240 mg/dL (6.2 mmol/L) put up in the high blood cholesterol category. A person with this level has more than twice the risk of coronary heart disease as someone whose cholesterol is below 200 mg/dL (5.1 mmol/L).

if your total cholesterol level is higher than normal you will need to look at your LDL levels, HDL levels and the cholesterol ratio. LDL or Bad Cholesterol should be low. Less than 100 mg/dL (2.6 mmol/L) is optimal while 100 (2.6) - 129 mg/L (3.3 mmol/L) is considered near optimal. Between 130 (3.3) - 159 mg/L (4.1 mmol/L) is borderline high while 160 (4.1) - 189 mg/dL (4.9 mmol/L) is high. Anything above 190 mg/L (4.9 mmol/L) is too high.

It is also important to measure cholesterol ratio which is the ratio of total cholesterol level to HDL cholesterol. Cholesterol ratio indicates your risk to heart disease and it should be as low as possible. A cholesterol ratio between 2.5 and 3.6 is below average while 3.7 and 5.5 is average. Between 5.6 and 8.3 is high while anything above 8.3 is simply too high indicating a higher risk of heart disease.

For example, if your total cholesterol level is 200 mg/dL (5.2 mmol/L) and your HDL cholesterol is 55mg/dL (1.4 mmol/L). Divinding 198 by 55 gives you a cholesterol ratio of 3.6 which indicate a low risk to heart disease.

Regardless of your HDL level and cholesterol ratio, your triglycerides and lipoprotein (a) should be less than 150 mg/dL (1.7 mmol/L) and 30 mg/dL respectively.

It is possible to have high total cholesterol level with normal levels of LDL or bad cholesterol balanced by high HDL or good cholesterol. However if LDL cholesterol level is also high, you should work with your doctor to create a prevention and treatment plan that is right for you.

Make lifestyle changes, including eating a heart-healthy diet, getting regular physical activity and avoiding tobacco smoke. Depending on your LDL or bad cholesterol levels and your other risk factors, you may also need medication.

Note: Outside the US, cholesterol levels are expressed in Milli Moles per litre. To convert mg/dL (milligrams/deciliter) of HDL or LDL cholesterol to mmol/L (millimoles/liter), multiply by 0.0259. To convert triglycerides to mmol/L, multiply by 0.0113.

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