Various studies sponsored by the U.S. government established that high blood cholesterol level is a risk factor for coronary heart disease (CHD). Studies showed that the higher the cholesterol level, the greater the CHD risk. On the other end of the spectrum, CHD is uncommon at total cholesterol levels below 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). A direct link between high blood cholesterol and CHD has been confirmed by the Lipid Research Clinics-Coronary Primary Prevention Trial (1984) which showed that lowering total and LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels significantly reduces CHD.
Based on various recommendations made by the health community including the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP)'s recommendations, the following chart may be used to assess your cholesterol level.
| LDL CHOLESTEROL |
| Less than 100 || Optimal Goal |
| 100 to 129 || Close to Optimal |
| 130 to 159 || Borderline High |
| 160 to 189 || High |
| 190 or higher || Very high (definite risk) |
| HDL CHOLESTEROL |
| Less than 40 || Low (High Risk) |
| 60 or higher || High (Optimal) |
| TRIGLYCERIDES |
| Less than 150 || Optimal Goal |
| TOTAL CHOLESTEROL |
| Less than 200 || Optimal Goal |
| 200 to 239 || Borderline High |
| 240 or higher || High |
Meaning of Cholesterol Numbers
Having your cholesterol checked to determine the range of where the cholesterol level falls is an important step to better health!
A good rule to follow is that any "total" cholesterol reading below 200 is good and anything over 240 indicates that you are at risk for developing coronary disease. In addition, your LDL cholesterol should measure below 130 and your HDL cholesterol should range between 35 and 40. When the HDL, or "good" cholesterol, reaches 60 or higher, you actually have the benefit of reducing your chance of heart attack.
Not everyone is thrilled about having blood drawn, but bear in mind that this particular test is quite simple and very inexpensive. To get accurate results, be sure to have the test performed by a qualified physician. Using portable devices or home-based kits often times produce inaccurate results.
Some things will alter the test and not provide a true reading. If any of the items listed below apply to you, be sure you notify your physician and lab technician before your blood is drawn:
- Exercise immediately preceding the test
- Certain medications
- Recent surgery
To get the best cholesterol reading possible, there is some preparation involved:
- Do not eat or drink anything other than water for a minimum of 14-16 hours before the test is done
- Do not exercise before blood is drawn
- Get plenty of rest before the test.