Ideal Cholesterol Reading
While an ideal cholesterol reading varies for each person, in general, a total cholesterol level under 200 mg/dL is desirable. Likewise, LDL cholesterol should be under 100 mg/dL; however, what's considered ideal depends on your risk factors for heart disease. When considering HDL levels, an ideal cholesterol reading would be above 40 mg/dL -- the higher, the better.
When a person considers his or her cholesterol, there are actually several cholesterol numbers to keep in mind. These cholesterol numbers include:
- Total cholesterol
- Low density lipoprotein (LDL) -- commonly known as "bad cholesterol"
- High density lipoprotein (HDL) -- what's referred to as "good cholesterol."
Triglycerides should also be considered. Although triglycerides are actually not a type of cholesterol, they can play a role in the development of atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease.
While an ideal cholesterol reading may vary from person to person, some guidelines have been established to help people understand what their cholesterol numbers mean.
A total cholesterol reading refers to the total amount of cholesterol in the bloodstream. Total cholesterol readings combine levels for HDL, LDL, and another "type" of cholesterol known as VLDL, or very low density lipoprotein.
An ideal cholesterol reading for total cholesterol is one under 200 mg/dL. It's best to consider total cholesterol to be an overview number, not the number that you use to decide whether or not you have healthy cholesterol levels.
A total cholesterol reading can be misleading. For example, a person can have an "ideal" total cholesterol reading but have a low HDL level and high LDL level. Both low HDL levels and high LDL levels increase a person's risk for heart disease. This is why most cholesterol-lowering treatment decisions are based on HDL and LDL cholesterol readings, not total cholesterol.