LDL cholesterol threatens your heart, and HDL cholesterol is what cleans this danger from your blood. If you do not know how your cholesterol numbers break down–and whether they fall within a healthy range–you should. Get tested at least every five years after age 20 to assess your risk for developing heart disease.
What Tests Measure
A lipoprotein profile looks at overall cholesterol levels after you have fasted for nine to 12 hours. Blood results pinpoint four numbers: HDL (good) cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, triglycerides and your overall cholesterol count.
Overall Healthy Reading
The American Heart Association says men and women should strive for a total cholesterol reading of less than 200 mg/dL. Readings of 240 mg/dL or higher place you at twice the risk for complications from heart disease.
The Good Stuff
An overall reading does not tell the whole story of health. Generally, the higher your HDL, the better. An HDL number best for heart protection should sit at or above 60 mg/dL. If a man’s HDL dips below 40 mg/dL, or a woman’s drops below 50 mg/dL, it’s time to make a plan for better health.
The Bad Stuff
LDL is trickier. A doctor will work with you to determine your goal based on age, race, family history, among other factors. Generally, LDL levels should fall at or below 100 mg/dL for optimal health. Readings from 100 to 129 mg/dL are still near optimal.
Triglycerides are a type of fat that the body stores in fat cells for use as energy later. Too much of this type of fat is a bad thing as well, the Mayo Clinic says, as high levels boost your risk of heart attack, stroke and heart disease. A healthy triglyceride level should fall at or below 150 mg/dL.
- open walnut image by OMKAR A.V from Fotolia.com