Understanding What Your Cholesterol Levels Mean

Medical professionals typically perform cholesterol levels testing among the battery of medical check-ups. They do so because high cholesterol or hypercholesterolemia is a popular medical condition that may considerably have an impact on your heart and overall health. To evaluate your blood cholesterol levels, your physician is going to perform a blood test known as a lipid panel, as well as a lipid profile. It is recommended to not eat or drink anything, apart from water, for approximately 9 hours before the exam to ensure correct evaluation results., while recent studies suggest that it is not necessary. With this guide, you will understand what your results mean. You will know about the total cholesterol, the HDL, the LDL, the triglycerides and even a less popular lipoprotein such as the VLDL. Keep reading!

What are the normal cholesterol levels for men and women?

A cholesterol test generally determines 4 distinct numbers: Total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides. Cholesterol being fat, it is not soluble in water. So it cannot circulate freely in the blood. But, the fact is that nature has devised a way to make water-soluble cholesterol, and transport it through the blood. This is by lipoproteins. The LDL or Low-density lipoprotein and the HDL or high-density lipoprotein are the 2 fundamental “cholesterol carriers” but to make things simpler, they are considered as cholesterol types. In addition, the lipid panel appraises the triglycerides (whole fat in a person’s body). They have an impact on health in the same manners as cholesterol. At last, the total cholesterol (sum of HDL, LDL and 20 percent of triglycerides) is integrated as well in the results. Apart from these 4 general lipid levels, your doctor may want to access your very low-density lipoprotein or VLDL that is considered bad when high.

Total cholesterol

Total Cholesterol = HDL Cholesterol + LDL Cholesterol + (0.2 x Triglycerides)

The total blood cholesterol, also known as serum cholesterol level, is scored depending on the danger of cardiovascular illness every cholesterol type triggers. In the United States, cholesterol levels are calculated in milligrams of cholesterol for each deciliter of blood. A result of under 200 mg per dL (5.2 mmol/L) is desirable. A level somewhere between 200 to 239 mg per dL (5.2 and 6.2 mmol/L) is within the edge line of the high-risk class. In that case, your doctor might advise you to develop a preventing low-cholesterol diet plan. More than 240 mg per dL (6.3 mmol/L) is the high-risk class. Here also, you will have to function on therapy with the help of your doctor. Individuals in this group usually have double high-risk of cardiovascular illness when compared with people within the ideal category.

Compare your Total Cholesterol level with the table below:

Total CholesterolCategory
Below 200 mg/dLIdeal
From 200 to 239 mg/dLBorderline high
240 mg/dL and overHigh

LDL cholesterol

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) has the crucial role to carry cholesterol to cells that need it. But, when its level is very high, it triggers an unhealthy build up on the arterial blood vessels. The outcome is a reduction of the circulation of blood, and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. That is why it considered “bad”. LDL levels are therefore an important gauge of a risk of cardiac arrest. A low LDL is much better. Lower than 100 mg per dL (2.6 mmol/L) is desirable. Between 100 and 129 mg per dL (2.6 and 3.3 mmol/L) is close to normal, while between 130 and 159 mg per dL (3.4 and 4.1 mmol/L) is borderline high. Between 160 and 189 mg per dL (4.1 and 4.9 mmol/L) is high, and when more than 190 mg per dL (4.9 mmol/L), it is very high. When you are at a high probability of having a cardiac arrest, a level of LDL cholesterol below 70 mg per dL (1.8 mmol/L) is highly advisable.

Compare your LDL level with the table below:

LDL CholesterolCategory
Below 100 mg/dLIdeal
From 100 to 129 mg/dLClose to ideal
From 130 to 159 mg/dLBorderline high
From 160 to 189 mg/dLHigh
190 mg/dL and overVery high

HDL cholesterol

High-density lipoprotein (HDL), the “good” cholesterol assists in maintaining arterial blood vessels clear. HDL helps take LDL cholesterol out of the arteries back to the liver. Thus, it helps the blood to circulate without restraint. Due to this advantage, a substantial quantity is much better when it comes to HDL levels. A score below 40 mg per dL (1 mmol/L) for men and 50 mg per dL (1.3 mmol/L) for women is known to be low. This places you at the threat of cardiovascular problems. The good levels for HDL are between 40 and 49 mg per dL (1 and 1.3 mmol/L) for men, and for women, between 50 and 59 mg per dL (1.3 and 1.5 mmol/L). When the level is higher than 60 mg per dL (1.6 mmol/L), it gives you some defense towards heart disease.

Compare your HDL level with the table below:

HDL CholesterolCategory
Below 40 mg/dLLow (high heart disease risk)
From 40 to 59 mg/dLNormal but the higher the better
60 mg/dL and overBest (offers protection against heart disease)


Triglycerides are a type of fat that originates from what you eat. Every eaten calorie not required by the body are transformed into triglycerides. After that, the body also deposits these in the form of fat. The levels of triglycerides are frequently elevated in individuals who are obese. This is also usually the same for people who have not enough physical exercise and follow a diet plan extremely loaded with carbs. Smokers and heavy drinkers are also subjected. The acceptable level of triglycerides is lower than 150 mg per dL (1.7 mmol/L). The borderline number is between 150 and 199 mg per dL (1.7 and 2.2 mmol/L). Starting from 200 to 499 mg per dL (2.3 and 5.6 mmol/L) is known high, and whatever over 500 mg per dL (5.7 mmol/L) is very high.

Compare your Triglycerides level with the table below:

Triglycerides LevelCategory
Below 150 mg/dLIdeal
From 150 to 199 mg/dLBorderline high
From 200 to 499 mg/dLHigh
500 mg/dL and overVery high


Very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol is produced by the body in the liver and has the function of transporting triglycerides through the bloodstream, which are then stored in the cells and used to deliver energy to the body. This type of cholesterol (VLDL, just like LDL) is considered bad, because when high in the body, it causes a buildup of fat in the arteries and the formation of plaques of atherosclerosis – which is extremely dangerous to health, as this increases the chances of occurrence of heart or metabolic diseases.  The VLDL level in the blood is usually estimated as its direct measurement requires expensive procedures. To calculate it approximately, you can multiply by 0.20 your level of triglycerides.

VLDL-C = Triglycerides x 0.20

For the most part, a reading below 30 mg/dL (0.7 mmol/L) is what is acceptable for the VLDL cholesterol. Doctors tend to encourage patients to make lifestyle changes when the result is higher than this number.

Compare your VLDL level with the table below:

VLDL CholesterolCategory
Below 30 mg/dLDesirable
30 mg/dL and overHigh

A cholesterol chart: Total, LDL, HDL, Triglycerides, VLDL

cholesterol chart - total, HDL, LDL, triglycerides, VLDLIt would be more convenient for everybody to interpret their cholesterol test results if only they could provide just one number as a result. Unfortunately, there exist multiple cholesterol types, as well as various desirable numbers for each. Some cholesterol is considered good, while other cholesterol is considered bad. Consequently, their respective numbers have to stay over or under a particular level, based on the particular type. A cholesterol levels chart enables you to completely grasp, besides the meaning of those multiple figures, the good and bad ones.

The chart here displays 5 cholesterol readings: total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, triglycerides and also VLDL cholesterol. It also displays the healthy range, along with risk zones pertaining to each one. To sum up, the recommended measurements for the total cholesterol are below 200. As for triglycerides, it is below 150. HDL should be 50 plus, under 35 is very risky. LDL should be below 130. Finally, VLDL should be below 30. Cholesterol levels are in the unit of mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter of blood) in the USA. But, they can be in mmol/L (millimoles per liter) unit used in Europe, Canada, and other countries. Along with these pointers, it typically shows that total cholesterol above 240, and triglycerides more than 500 is high risk. The chart furthermore indicates the borderline between ideal and risky ranges. Keep in mind that these figures are standards and that the chart can be different based on the reference.

Medical Disclaimer

Although we base our articles on recent scientific researches, the content on CholesterolMenu.com should not be considered as medical advice or a recommendation for medical treatment, but as educational and informational articles that are strictly the personal opinion of CholesterolMenu.com's authors. As the reader, you are recommended to consult your doctor to discuss any health issues and treatments. We shall not be held responsible or liable for possible health consequences from following the information in our articles.