Cholesterol Home > Cholesterol Readings

When you take a test that measures cholesterol in the blood, the results are known as a cholesterol reading. A test known as a lipid panel generates readings measuring total cholesterol, LDL, and HDL. In addition to measuring cholesterol, lipid panels measure triglycerides, a different form of fat. Total cholesterol levels on their own can be misleading; most cholesterol treatment decisions are made based on LDL and HDL cholesterol measurements.

What Are Cholesterol Readings?

Having your cholesterol tested is the only way to know if you have high cholesterol. Cholesterol readings are the results of your cholesterol test. There are a few different forms of cholesterol tests used to determine your cholesterol levels. For example, readings derived from home cholesterol tests may only measure total cholesterol. A cholesterol test known as a lipid profile or lipid panel, will measure several things, including.
A lipid profile may also show several cholesterol ratios (see Cholesterol Ratio).
Understanding these cholesterol readings can help you determine if you have high cholesterol and your risk for heart disease.

Readings for Total Cholesterol

Total cholesterol (as the name implies) 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.
Total cholesterol readings alone can be misleading; it's possible to have a healthy total cholesterol reading and still have a low HDL level or a high LDL level. Because of this, most cholesterol treatment decisions are based on readings of HDL and LDL cholesterol, as opposed to total cholesterol levels. It's often best to think of your total cholesterol as a guideline; if your total cholesterol is too high, you should have more specific tests taken to learn your LDL and HDL levels.
Total cholesterol readings over 240 mg/dL are classified as "high," a reading between 200 and 239 mg/dL is borderline high, and a total cholesterol reading under 200 is generally considered healthy. If your total cholesterol reading is higher than 240 mg/dL, your risk for stroke and heart disease 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 readings are expressed 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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