What is a High Cholesterol Level?
Cholesterol levels are usually detected during routine physical examinations if your physician orders blood work. For adults, it is recommended that you have your blood work checked at least every 5 years.Total cholesterol levels are sometimes misleading. It is best to have a full lipoprotein profile done on your blood work to determine your individual levels of HDL, LDL and TGs (lipid panel).
Having a borderline high total cholesterol level may either be a good or a bad thing. If most of it is in the form of HDL, it is a good thing. If most of it is LDL, there is a greater risk for pathology. It is important to skip meals the night before your physical examination and blood work so test results are not artificially affected. If you do eat the night before, only the HDL level and total cholesterol level is reliable.
What to look for in your blood test:
Total Cholesterol. This is a measurement of all the cholesterol in your blood. Your risk for vascular related disease increases with higher serum levels of cholesterol.
- Less than 200 mg/dL is considered desirable. Levels considerably lower is not necessarily protective but places you at lower risk.
- The 200-239 mg/dL range is termed borderline high.
- Cholesterol levels higher than 240 mg/dL is considered high and counterintuitively, though this cholesterol level is no way near double to triple the desirable cholesterol level, the risk for vascular disease is almost doubled to tripled.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL). You want this value to be high. HDL is called good cholesterol because it shuttles cholesterol from extrahepatic tissues to the liver for excretion, including cholesterol that would have built up and hardened arterial walls. In the event that you are able to only obtain HDL levels and one other lipid profile value, you should be able to give a general assessment of health with the reasoning that once you know the “good” cholesterol value, all others must be bad.
- A value less than 40 mg/dL is considered very low and is considered a major risk factor for heart disease.
- Values in the range 40-59 mg/dL neither increases nor decreases risk for heart disease.
- A HDL level greater than 60 mg/dL is considered most desirable and is thought to assert a protective factor against the development of heart disease.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL). The main source of build up of arteries comes from the cholesterol in LDL. Considered bad cholesterol, LDL transports cholesterol from the liver to the body via the bloodstream. Along this transport journey, cholesterol deposits itself in the vasculature. As evident, higher levels of LDL greatly increase the risk of developing vascular disease. Because of this reason, one of the main strategies in the fight against vascular disease is to lower LDL levels as much as possible. Patients who are already suffering from vascular disease or have related systemic diseases are encouraged to lower their LDL levels far below even the optimal level for healthy adults.
- A value less than 100 mg/dL is considered desirable.
- Levels between 100-129 mg/dL is considered near optimal to fair.
- Values between 130-159 mg/dL is termed borderline high.
- LDL levels between 160-189 mg/dl is considered high and at risk.
- Values higher than 190 mg/dl is very high with great risk for heart disease.
Triglycerides (TGs). Most of the fat you eat and the fat you store in your tissues are triglycerides. It is thought that TGs are not as great of a factor in the plaque build up on arterial walls as is LDL. However, elevated levels of TGs and high cholesterol levels often go hand in hand. Usually, low HDL levels also seems to accompany high TG levels.
- A value less than 150 mg/dL is normal.
- A level between 150-199 mg/dL is considered borderline high.
- Values between 200-499 mg/dL is considered high.
- A TG level above 500 mg/dL is very high.