Cholesterol numbers can be confusing because LDL is separate from HDL and total cholesterol. Once you know what LDL is and why it matters, you can make smart choices about how to maintain the healthiest LDL level for your health.
LDL stands for low-density lipoprotien cholesterol. It's typically considered "bad" cholesterol because it builds up on the walls of your arteries, thereby restricting the flow of blood to your heart and brain.
A number under 100 mg/dL is considered desirable, and up to 129 is considered near optimal. A number between 130 and 159 is borderline high, 160-189 is high, and anything above 190 is very high risk.
While total cholesterol is one determiner of your risk of developing heart failure or stroke, the LDL numbers are more appropriate in effectively gauging your true risk. This is why you ideally want very low LDL numbers.
The LDL number you should aim for depends on your health history. Most healthy people should strive for a number below 130, but if you have other risk factors for heart disease (smoker, family history, high blood pressure), you want to aim for a number below 100 or even 70 mg/dL for greater heart protection.
For low LDL levels, eat more soluble fiber, eat less dietary cholesterol and saturated fat and exercise to maintain a healthy weight. If these measures don't work to lower your LDL, you need to talk to your doctor about cholesterol-lowering medicines that target LDL cholesterol.