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Total cholesterol is the most common measurement of blood cholesterol. Your physician will interpret your cholesterol numbers based on other risk factors. In general, adults should also have a fasting lipoprotein profile every five years, which provides information about total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or "bad" cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or "good" cholesterol, triglycerides (blood fats). General ranges for these tests are categorized below.

Total Cholesterol Level

Category

Less than 200 mg/dL

Desirable

200 - 239 mg/dL

Borderline high

240 mg/dL and above

High

LDL Cholesterol Level

Category

70 mg/dL

Desirable
(with known heart disease)

100 - 129 mg/dL

Optimal

130 - 159 mg/dL

High

160 - 189 mg/dL

Very High

LDL Cholesterol Level
Low density lipoprotein or bad cholesterol is in part responsible for plaque build up in the vessel walls. These particles can be large or small and there are more advanced blood studies that look at that. Ideally if you have heart disease, your LDL goal is 70 mg/dL.

HDL Cholesterol Level
A high density lipoprotein (good cholesterol) level of less than 40 mg/dL is a major risk factor for heart disease. An HDL level of 60 mg/dL or higher is protective.

Triglycerides
Triglycerides, which are produced in the liver, are another type of fat found in the blood and in food. When you drink alcohol or take in excess calories, your liver produces more triglycerides. Recent research indicates that triglycerides levels that are borderline high (150-199 mg/dL) or high (200 mg/dL or more) increase your risk of heart disease. To reduce blood triglyceride levels, doctors recommend a low-saturated-fat, low-cholesterol diet that also limits carbohydrates. It is also important to control your weight, get more physical activity, and avoid smoking and alcohol. Sometimes, medication is needed.

In addition, to cholesterol and triglyceride measures, you may also wish to discuss the following test with your physician:

C-Reactive Protein
To predict a woman's risk of heart disease, physicians have long relied on tests for cholesterol and triglycerides. Now a test for C-reactive protein can help physicians forecast a woman's coronary risk. A C-reactive protein test is a blood test that measures the amount of this protein, which may be elevated when a severe infection or inflammatory condition is present. Combined, C-reactive protein and cholesterol tests can more accurately predict a woman's risk of having a future cardiac event than either test can alone.