The Cholesterol Level Scale
What is the Cholesterol Level Scale? How Your Cholesterol Levels and Ratios Determine Your Risk of a Heart Attack or Stroke?
The cholesterol level scale is simply a way of measuring the amount and ratio of the different types of cholesterol in your blood. A full lipid blood panel test is required to get a reading on the amount and ratio of each type of cholesterol. Here is what a cholesterol blood panel will measure:
Below you'll find a cholesterol level scale and other cholesterol charts outlining the recommended cholesterol levels and the cholesterol guidelines for each of the four types of cholesterol. You will see where you fall on each chart and if you are at risk for heart problems, heart disease and possibly even stroke.
The cholesterol level numbers are measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl). This is just for your information and your understanding. Basically, it's a standard measurement of how much of each type of cholesterol is in your blood.
First, let’s look at total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and triglyceride guidelines.
Normal Cholesterol Levels
National Cholesterol Education Program Cholesterol Guidelines
Cholesterol Level Scale and Your Total Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a type of fat (lipid) that your body needs, for example, to make sex hormones (not bad to have after all).
As the name says, total cholesterol is the number of all the cholesterol found in your blood. Even though you can see from the table above that it is desirable to have total cholesterol less than 200, it is best to aim for 180 and below.
The 200 cholesterol level scale is for today's high fat, high carbohydrate American diet. Foods high in fats and carbohydrates are the two main sources of high total cholesterol. You need to consider that even a low fat and light carbohydrate diet may still be high in fat and carbohydrates when you compare it to diets in other countries. The 200 total cholesterol number is only a beginning milestone. A total cholesterol level of 180 and below is the target for most Americans if you want to reduce your risk to safe cholesterol levels.
Cholesterol Level Scale and Your LDL (Bad) Cholesterol
LDL Cholesterol is called the bad cholesterol because it is responsible for the deposits of cholesterol which accumulate on your arterial walls. A high level of LDL increases your risk of heart attack and stroke. Remember that this is the cholesterol you want to get lower.
As you can see from the cholesterol level scale above, you must aim for a LDL cholesterol level of 130 or less. It is self-explanatory since LDL cholesterol builds up on your arterial walls, creating blockage and reducing the blood flow to your heart and potentially to your brain. Because this makes your heart work harder, you increase your risk for heart attack and stroke. Your goal for your LDL cholesterol level must be 130 or less.
Cholesterol Level Scale and Your HDL (Good) Cholesterol
HDL cholesterol is the good cholesterol. It carries away cholesterol from the arteries back to the liver where it is prepared for elimination from the body. The higher your HDL cholesterol level, the more cholesterol can be eliminated from your body and the lower your risk of heart attack.
While you see from the cholesterol level scale above that 50 is a desirable level, aim for 55 or higher. This will clean out bad cholesterol from your arterial walls.
Cholesterol Level Scale and Your Triglycerides
Triglycerides are, for simplification, what we call "fat." When you pinch your waistline, love handles or buttocks, you are pinching excess triglycerides. However, unlike cholesterol, triglycerides are burned for energy. That’s one reason you need to workout, exercise or at minimum perform some regular activity such as brisk walking every day. These types of activities turn on your body’s interior fat burning furnace which then converts stored fat to energy to support your activity.
Again, do not take the 200 number in the cholesterol level scale above as a guideline. It is best to get your triglycerides level below 150. That means less weight and less fat. If you are overweight, its probable you will find yourself in the high triglyceride, high risk category on the cholesterol level charts. Do your heart and your self esteem a favor and begin a weight management and exercise program today.
Cholesterol Level Scale and Your Cholesterol Ratios
Some practitioners now believe your ratio of HDL to LDL and total cholesterol has a more reliable value than total cholesterol assessing your risk of heart attack, heart disease, stroke, coronary heart disease, coronary artery arteriosclerosis disease and other cardiovascular and heart diseases.
These ratios tell you whether more cholesterol is being stored in your cells versus how much is being broken down and removed from your body. That's why some people who have low total cholesterol levels still have heart attacks.
The way to determine your ratios is to simply divide your total cholesterol and LDL numbers by your HDL number.
As a general rule for both men and women the ratios of total cholesterol to HDL should be below 4. A better ratio is 3.5 and an excellent cholesterol ratio is 3.0 or lower.
It is well established in many studies that people with a cholesterol ratio between 2.4 and 2.8 can actually experience a reversal of heart disease.