Cholesterol Guidelines

Guidelines have been established to help people better understand what is meant by "high cholesterol." Guidelines for total cholesterol indicate that a level less than 200 mg/dL is desirable; anything over this is considered high. Guidelines for high density lipoprotein cholesterol call for a level of at least 40 mg/dL. For low density lipoprotein cholesterol, a number of less than 100 mg/dL is ideal.

An Introduction to Cholesterol Guidelines

So you've had your cholesterol tested. Now you know your cholesterol numbers, but do you know what they mean? How high does cholesterol have to be for it to be considered "high?"
Medical experts have established guidelines for cholesterol to help people understand what their cholesterol levels mean for their health. Cholesterol numbers on their own would mean nothing without the context provided by these guidelines.
Guidelines are in place for:
  • Total cholesterol
  • HDL (high density lipoprotein) cholesterol -- the "good" cholesterol
  • LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol -- the "bad" cholesterol.
While not a form of cholesterol, triglycerides are also measured by lipid panel tests commonly used by healthcare providers to test your cholesterol. There are guidelines for triglycerides as well.

Guidelines for Total Cholesterol

Total cholesterol levels (as the name implies) refer to the total amount of cholesterol in the bloodstream. Total cholesterol combines levels for HDL, LDL, and another type of cholesterol known as VLDL, or very low density lipoprotein.
Total cholesterol guidelines indicate that a total cholesterol level over 240 mg/dL is high, a level between 200 and 239 mg/dL is borderline high, and a total cholesterol level under 200 is a healthy level. If your total cholesterol is higher than 240 mg/dL, your risk for heart disease and stroke is higher.
Total Cholesterol Level
Total Cholesterol Category
Less than 200 mg/dL
200–239 mg/dL
Borderline high
240 mg/dL and above
(Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams [mg] of cholesterol per deciliter [dL] of blood.)
Because a person can have a healthy total cholesterol level and still have a low HDL level or a high LDL level, most cholesterol treatment decisions are based on HDL and LDL cholesterol levels. So it's best to think of the total cholesterol level as an overview.
10 Foods That Lower Cholesterol


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