What should my total cholesterol level be?
In the past, treatment guidelines directed healthcare providers to focus on treating their patients to target goal levels for total cholesterol, LDL, HDL and triglycerides. However, current prevention guidelines recommend an approach that goes beyond cholesterol levels alone and considers overall risk assessment and reduction.
It's still important to know your numbers, but work with your healthcare provider to treat your risk.
What numbers do I need to know?
You should be aware of five key numbers: total cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and body mass index (BMI).
These numbers are important because they will allow you and your healthcare provider to determine your risk for developing cardiovascular disease caused by atherosclerosis. This includes conditions such as angina (chest pain), heart attack, stroke (caused by blood clots) and peripheral artery disease (PAD).
Ideal numbers for most adults are:
|Total cholesterol||Get your cholesterol checked and talk to your doctor about your numbers and how they impact your overall risk.|
|HDL cholesterol||Get your cholesterol checked and talk to your doctor about your numbers and how they impact your overall risk.|
|Blood pressure||Less than 120/80 mm Hg|
|Fasting blood sugar||Less than 100 mg/dL|
|Body mass index (BMI)||Less than 25 kg/m2|
What is HDL cholesterol?
HDL cholesterol is called “good” cholesterol. Having a high level of HDL can lower your risk of heart attack and stroke.
HDL takes cholesterol away from your arteries and back to the liver. There, it’s processed so that excess can be removed from your body. HDL may also remove cholesterol from plaque in the arteries.
What is LDL cholesterol?
LDL cholesterol is known as “bad” cholesterol. The body’s tissues use some of this cholesterol to build cells. But when you have too much of it, LDL can build up inside your arteries.
Together with other substances, it can form plaque (a thick, hard, fatty deposit). Plaque narrows the arteries and reduces blood flow. This is called atherosclerosis.
What are triglycerides?
Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in your body. They’re also a major energy source. They come from food, and your body also makes them. As people get older, gain excess weight or both, their triglyceride and cholesterol levels tend to rise.
Know Your Numbers
Use the chart below to keep track of your numbers each time you have a test. Make sure you discuss these numbers with your doctor.
1st Visit 2nd Visit 3rd Visit 4th Visit
Fasting blood sugar
Body Mass Index (BMI)
- Call 1-800-AHA-USA1 (1-800-242-8721), or visit heart.org to learn more about heart disease and stroke.
- Sign up to get Heart Insight, a free magazine for heart patients and their families, at heartinsight.org.
- Connect with others sharing similar journeys with heart disease and stroke by joining our Support Network at heart.org/supportnetwork.
Do you have questions or comments for your doctor or nurse?
Take a few minutes to write your own questions for the next time you see your healthcare provider. For example:
How can I reduce my cholesterol?
How often should I have my cholesterol checked?
©2015, American Heart Association