Testing for cholesterol

August 11, 2002|by KEVIN CLAPP

The body produces cholesterol on its own, and while the substance plays a key role in development of cell membranes and sex hormones, there can be too much of this 'good' thing. Here's what doctors are checking when they order blood cholesterol levels.

Total cholesterol:

Desirable - An overall cholesterol reading of less than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)

Borderline high - A reading between 200 and 240 mg/dL

High risk - A reading above 240 mg/dL

LDL cholesterol:

Optimal - A reading of less than 100 mg/dL

Near optimal/above optimal - A reading between 100 and 129 mg/dL

Borderline high - A reading between 130 and 159 mg/dL

High - A reading between 160 and 189 mg/dL


Very high - A reading greater than or equal to 190 mg/dL

HDL cholesterol:

Optimal - A reading of greater than or equal to 60 mg/dL

Low - A reading of less than 40 mg/dL

The National Cholesterol Education Program advocates cholesterol checks for adults at least every five years. Still, roughly 102.3 million American adults have a total blood cholesterol level of 200 mg per deciliter or higher, including 41.3 million adults in the high risk category.

Of the two main types of cholesterol:

Low-density lipoproteins (LDL), or bad cholesterol, are more plentiful in the body and should be less than 100 mg/dL in keeping with the latest NCEP guidelines.

High-density lipoproteins (HDL), or good cholesterol, are less bountiful than LDL, but the greater its level, the greater the benefit. Levels of less than 40 mg/dL have been associated with a greater risk of heart disease.

Source: American Heart Association; National Cholesterol Education Program

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