People can calculate their total cholesterol by adding their levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and 20% of their triglycerides.
This information comes from the
HDL is a beneficial type of cholesterol, while LDL is not. The former helps remove cholesterol from the arteries, decreasing the risk of a cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack or stroke. Conversely, LDL promotes cholesterol accumulation in the arteries.
A person has a healthy level of total cholesterol if it is
This article discusses how to calculate total cholesterol, the ranges, and what desirable and undesirable cholesterol levels mean. It also examines other cholesterol measurements and suggests questions to ask a doctor.
Total cholesterol measures how much cholesterol is in a person’s blood overall. This measurement includes all types of cholesterol, including HDL, LDL, and triglycerides, the
The liver makes cholesterol, a waxy substance that is essential for good health. However, too much cholesterol, particularly harmful types, can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
In contrast, LDL promotes the buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries. This makes up
People can calculate their total cholesterol by combining the figures from several blood tests. According to the
The below table shows how doctors categorize total cholesterol levels:
|borderline cholesterol||200–239 mg/dl|
|high cholesterol||240 mg/dl or higher|
High total cholesterol may indicate a person has a higher risk of a cardiovascular event. However, in gauging the likelihood, doctors also consider the other parts of a cholesterol test known as a lipoprotein profile. This includes:
- HDL: Since HDL is the beneficial type of cholesterol, the higher it is, the more beneficial it is. Levels
higher than 40 mg/dl for men or 50 mg.dl for womenare ideal.
- LDL: Since LDL is a harmful type of cholesterol, the lower it is, the less harmful it is. Optimal levels are less than 100 mg/dl.
- Triglycerides: Levels of less than 150 mg/dl are optimal. People with levels higher than this have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Depending on how high the levels are, the person may require treatment.
It is also worth noting that high cholesterol is only one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Other factors can have a positive or negative influence on the overall risk. When evaluating a person’s risk profile, doctors also consider other factors, such as:
- blood pressure
- body weight
- physical activity level
- whether they smoke
- other conditions, such as diabetes
Generally, desirable results mean a person may have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, but they do not guarantee it. The
An individual with healthy cholesterol can have an elevated likelihood of a heart attack or stroke if they have several risk factors.
Total cholesterol is just one way of measuring a person’s risk for cardiovascular disease. Other techniques involve looking at the ratios between different types of cholesterol and triglycerides.
For example, older
These ratios identified significantly high and low risk groups better than total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Additionally, the two ratios are good predictors of the degree that lipid-lowering medications will reduce cardiovascular risk.
Triglyceride levels also help predict cardiovascular risk. Triglycerides are not a type of cholesterol but a type of fat in the blood. They can
If a person has just received their total cholesterol results, they may want to ask their doctor the following questions:
- What does my total cholesterol level show?
- What are the limitations of this test?
- What other factors are there to consider?
- What is my overall risk for cardiovascular disease?
- Do I need any other screenings or tests?
- What can I do to bring my cholesterol levels into a healthy range?
- Will I need medical treatment to change my cholesterol levels?
Total cholesterol is the sum of a person’s HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and
However, measurements of cholesterol are merely one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Various lifestyle factors and other medical conditions can influence the risk.
With this in mind, even if a person’s cholesterol is in the desirable range, it does not guarantee that they do not have an elevated risk. An individual may wish to discuss their cardiovascular risk with a doctor.