Cholesterol Home > Cholesterol Level

Your cholesterol level is the amount of cholesterol in your bloodstream. Your total level combines levels for HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and VLDL cholesterol. Generally, a total level over 240 mg/dL is considered high, and a level between 200 and 239 mg/dL is borderline high. Your total level doesn't tell the complete story -- your HDL level and your LDL level provide a more accurate assessment of your health.

An Introduction to Cholesterol Levels

There are several different types of cholesterol tests. For example, some home cholesterol tests only check total cholesterol. Another type of cholesterol test, called a lipid profile or lipid panel, will measure several things, including:
 
Also, a lipid panel may show several cholesterol ratios (see Cholesterol Ratio).
 

What Does "Total Cholesterol" Mean?

A total cholesterol level (as the name implies) refers 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.
 
The total level of cholesterol can be misleading, because a person can have a healthy total level and still have a low HDL level or a high LDL level. Therefore, most cholesterol treatment decisions are based on HDL and LDL levels, not a total cholesterol level. In most cases, it's best to think of the total cholesterol as an overview number.
 
A total cholesterol level over 240 mg/dL is high, a level between 200 and 239 mg/dL is borderline high, and a level under 200 is a healthy level of cholesterol. 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
Desirable
200–239 mg/dL
Borderline high
240 mg/dL and above
High
 
(A cholesterol level is measured in milligrams [mg] of cholesterol per deciliter [dL] of blood.)
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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