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What Do Cholesterol Numbers Mean

 

 

By Diane Hanson

You see them on your lab report but do you know what cholesterol numbers mean? Your cholesterol level is shown in several different numbers to indicate levels of different types of cholesterol – total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol and triglycerides.

 

Total Cholesterol

Total cholesterol, or TC, is the number most of us think of when it comes to cholesterol. It is the total sum of all cholesterol and is measured in milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dl).

To find out your total cholesterol, divide your triglyceride level by 5, which will give you your VLDL, or very low-density lipoprotein count. Add your VLDL, LDL and HDL levels together to get your total cholesterol count. The ideal cholesterol levels are below 200 mg/dl in the U.S. and below 5.2 mmol/l in countries that use the millimoles per liter method.

 

HDL

HDL is also known as high density lipoprotein. Unlike the other two types of cholesterol, a high HDL level is good. HDL is believed to carry cholesterol out of the arteries and back to the liver for reprocessing or excretion.

An HDL level above 40 mg/dl for men or 50 mg/dl for women is ideal in the U.S. and numbers above 1.0 mmol/l for men and 1.3 mmol/l for women are targeted where the millimoles per liter method is used.

 

LDL

LDL stands for low level lipoproteins. It is often labeled "bad" because it can cause blockage in the arteries that lead to the brain and the heart, resulting in strokes and heart attacks.

The higher the LDL level, the higher the risk of heart disease. An LDL level of less than 100 mg/dl is optimal for people in the U.S. and anything less than 2.6 mmol/l is ideal under the millimoles per liter method.

 

Triglycerides

Triglyceride is a form of fat in the bloodstream, and there is usually a correlation between triglycerides and HDL and LDL counts. People (overweight and obese) with a high triglyceride count will typically have a low HDL and high LDL count.

Excess triglycerides in plasma have been linked to the occurrence of coronary artery disease in some people. The recommended counts for triglycerides are below 150 mg/dl in the U.S. and below 1.7 mmol/l where the millimoles per liter method is used

 

Once you know what your cholesterol numbers mean, and if they're less than desirable, try to lower your high cholesterol levels by making a few lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking.

 

 

 

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what cholesterol numbers mean