Friday, 14 September 2007 23:21
The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) has published definitions regarding high and normal cholesterol values. These were endorsed by the American Heart Association and other health organizations and are displayed in the table below.
Specific target levels or the recommended cholesterol values you should try to maintain, are established only for LDL or "bad" cholesterol. This is because LDL cholesterol is the most important indicator for your risk of atherosclerosis or a hardening of the arteries, and eventually heart disease or stroke.
However, the total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol values are often the only ones monitored because they are easy and inexpensive to measure. This is acceptable for an initial assessment of your risk of heart disease.
Table Of Cholesterol Values
200 - 239
5.1 - 6.1
LDL cholesterol - the "bad" cholesterol
100 - 129
2.6 - 3.3
130 - 159
3.3 - 4.1
160 - 189
4.1 - 4.8
HDL cholesterol - the "good" cholesterol
150 - 199
1.7 - 2.2
200 - 499
2-2 - 5.6
* The American Heart Association sets different thresholds for HDL cholesterol in men (< 40 mg/dL = low) and women (< 50mg/dL = low), a discrimination that the National Cholesterol Education Program no longer makes.
The values in the above table are indicated in milligrams per deciliter blood (mg/dL) and millimole/liter (mmol/L). The unit mg/dL is common in the US, whereas mmol/L is generallly used in the rest of the world. Please use our unit converter if you would like to convert your values.
If you are interested in "real" cholesterol levels actually measured in individuals such as the US population, please have a look here.
Which Cholesterol Values Are Most Important?
Let's put those values into perspective by determining which factors are especially important and which are less important:
- Excess LDL or "bad cholesterol" in your blood signifies "high" cholesterol. This is probably the most important indicator for your risk of atherosclerosis or a hardening of the arteries and heart disease. The primary goal of lipid-lowering therapy is generally to lower the levels of LDL cholesterol.
- Total cholesterol is a less precise predictor of heart disease risk than LDL because it includes many kinds of cholesterol, including the beneficial HDL or "good" cholesterol. Nonetheless, a high total cholesterol level usually indicates a high level of LDL.
- A very low level of HDL is just as important a risk factor for developing heart disease as a high LDL value. On the other hand, a high level of HDL or "good" cholesterol can compensate for a high level of "bad" LDL cholesterol.
- Elevated triglyceride or fat levels are also associated with an increased risk, especially in combination with obesity and other factors.
- You may notice Lipoprotein(a) or Lp(a) on your medical chart. Lp(a) is a subtype of LDL, and individuals with high levels of Lp(a) or "very bad" LDL, appear to be at higher risk for heart disease. Researchers can't seem to agree on the exact level of "high" Lp(a), but most specialists consider a value of approximately 30 mg/dL (0.8 mmol/l) to be high.
Last Updated on Friday, 14 November 2008 04:53
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