A cholesterol test, also knows as a fasting lipoprotein profile, is used to measure the levels of cholesterol (in milligrams per deciliter) in the blood system. The results are used to measure an individuals risk for cardiac and heart disease and can be used to gauge a person's overall general health. Depending upon the level of HDL (good cholesterol) and LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) levels in your blood, a patient can be catagorized as either high, moderately high, or desirable risk level.
HDL vs LDL
When you evaluate cholesterol numbers, it is important to distinguish between HDL and LDL cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is considered good cholesterol because it helps clean the cardiovascular system, while LDL cholesterol is considered bad because it tends to plug the system up. The goal is to have low levels of LDL and high levels of HDL.
High Risk LDL levels
Individuals that have an LDL cholesterol level greater than 240 mg/dL are considered to be high risk for cardiovascular and coronary heart diseases. Patients with levels above 240 mg/dL should focus on lifestyle changes, such as exercise and diet, as well as take medication to reduce blood cholesterol levels.
Borderline High Risk LDL levels
Borderline high risk patients are those with blood cholesterol levels between 200 and 239 mg/dL. Most often, individuals with borderline high risk cholesterol levels are asked to make lifestyle changes aimed at reducing LDL levels and/or increasing HDL levels.
Desirable LDL levels
An LDL cholesterol level of less than 200 mg/dL is considered the desirable level that puts the patient in a low risk category for heart disease and cardiovascular complications. Individuals with low risk levels are not on a specific blood cholesterol testing level, but having regular evaluations is still recommended.
Desirable HDL levels
As a general rule with HDL cholesterol, the higher the value, the better. The average HDL level for men is 40 to 50 mg/dL and the average level for women is 50 to 60 mg/dL. Falling below the average levels does increase risks for coronary heart disease, particularly when seen in conjunction with high levels of LDL cholesterol.