How to Get a Total Cholesterol Number

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Cholesterol is a steroid that is an essential component of cell membranes, but high levels of it in blood can increase the risk of developing coronary heart disease and stroke. It is transported through the blood by three lipoproteins: the low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol), the high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol ("good" cholesterol), and low density lipoproteins (VLDL) also called triglycerides. The total cholesterol number is the sum of all cholesterol components.

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• Submit to blood tests and get the results from your doctor or health center. Note that cholesterol data are typically given in milligrams per 100 milliliters (1 deciliter) of blood, denoted as "mg/dL."

• Find the LDL cholesterol value in the report. This is your "bad" cholesterol. For example, LDL equals 122 mg/dL.

• Find the HDL cholesterol value. This is your "good" cholesterol. For example, HDL is 80 mg/dL.

• Divide a triglyceride value (abbreviated as "Trig") from the report by five to obtain the VLDL number. For instance, if the triglyceride value is 210 mg/dL, then VLDL is 42 (210 divided by five) mg/mL.

• Add up the values from steps two through four to get the total cholesterol number, as total cholesterol equals LDL plus HDL plus VLDL. In our example the number is 244 (122 plus 80 plus 42) mg/dL.

• Navigate the Web MD cholesterol page (link below) and compare your number with those listed in the table to see how it is classified. In our example the total cholesterol number of 244 mg/dL falls into the high category.

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