High cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Find out what your numbers mean and how to have healthy cholesterol levels. Cholesterol - the waxy, fat-like substance found in your blood - is naturally produced by your body. About 75 percent of cholesterol is made in your liver and other cells, and it’s a needed part of your digestive system. Cholesterol also comes from the animal-based foods you eat, ranging from steak to whole milk to eggs.

High cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Find out what your numbers mean and how to have healthy cholesterol levels. Cholesterol - the waxy, fat-like substance found in your blood - is naturally produced by your body. About 75 percent of cholesterol is made in your liver and other cells, and it’s a needed part of your digestive system. Cholesterol also comes from the animal-based foods you eat, ranging from steak to whole milk to eggs.


Cholesterol exists in two distinct forms: High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is considered “good” cholesterol because it helps prevent fatty buildup along your arteries. LDL cholesterol is known as “bad” cholesterol because it does just the opposite, building up in the walls of your blood vessels. When cholesterol-based material, or plaque, builds up along your arteries, it clogs them and can lead to blockages.


Know Your Numbers


Here are general guidelines from the National Cholesterol Education Program:


Total Cholesterol

Less than 200: desirable200 to 239: borderline high240 or greater: high

LDL Cholesterol

Less than 100: optimal100 to 129: near optimal/above optimal130 to 159: borderline high160 to 189: high190 or greater: very high

HDL Cholesterol

Less than 40: low 60 or greater: high (desirable)


Components of Cholesterol Tests



Your cholesterol report includes a few readings. Total cholesterol is a combined measure of your HDL (or “good”) cholesterol, your LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol, and triglycerides, a distinct group of fats found in your blood that can also raise your risk of heart disease. Most people should have a total cholesterol level of less than 200 mg/dL. If your total cholesterol is between 200 and 239, it’s considered mildly high and requires watching. If your total cholesterol is 240 or higher, talk with your doctor about how you can lower it.



Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in the body. Generally, a healthy triglyceride level is below 150 mg/dL. Triglyceride levels between 200 and 499 mg/dL are high, and anything above 500 is very high. Having high triglyceride levels increases your risk for metabolic syndrome, which can lead to heart disease and other health problems, including diabetes.