Cholesterol Levels

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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More than 50 percent of Americans, according to American Heart Association figures, have less than desirable cholesterol levels. Every other person walking down the street is at risk for health disease. But how do we know how grave those risks are? Numbers help make cholesterol levels and risks understandable and make establishing achievable goals easier. Actually achieving them, of course, is something else altogether.

Measuring Cholesterol Levels

There are five ways to measure for a complete reading on cholesterol levels: total, HDL, LDL, total/HDL ratio, LDL/HDL ratio. These measurements are categorized as desirable, borderline, and risk. Measurement units are milligrams per deciliter. It is misleading to consider any of them on their own. Consult your health practitioner to best understand your cholesterol levels and what, if anything, to do about them or how to maintain them.

Total desirable is below 200 mg/dL, total borderline is 200-240 and total risk above 240. HDL desirable is above 45 mg/dL, HDL borderline is 35-45 and HDL risk below 35. LDL desirable is below 130 mg/dL, LDL borderline is 130-160 and LDL risk above 160. Total/HDL desirable ratio is below 4.5, total/HDL borderline is 4.5-5.5 and total/HDL risk is above 5.5. LDL/HDL desirable ratio is below 3, LDL/HDL borderline is 3-5 and LDL/HDL risk is above 5.

One very important set of numbers to bear in mind as you face your own cholesterol levels is that every milligram per deciliter makes a considerable difference: with a 10 mg/dL drop (or increase) in cholesterol comes an approximate 40 percent decrease in risk of heart disease. Isn't that incentive enough?

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