Healthy Cholesterol Levels Defined

by Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Filed Under: Heart Health, Cholesterol
Last Reviewed 02/15/2014

Healthy Cholesterol Levels Defined

For most people in this country, the word cholesterol is synonymous with death and disease. That’s because the pharmaceutical companies have created a nonexistent disease called hypercholesterolemia, which simply means “high cholesterol.” Many of my patients are indeed worried if they have a total cholesterol score above 200 because they don’t know what constitutes a healthy cholesterol level.

But I’d like you to know that high cholesterol is not a death sentence. It’s simply a signal that you should have a more sophisticated blood test that will measure the various subtypes of your LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol, and tell you whether your cholesterol warrants attention or is merely elevated.

This type of information, which hasn’t been available until recently, can then help you make health and lifestyle choices that will have the best odds of improving your situation and obtaining and maintaining a healthy cholesterol level.

Healthy Cholesterol Levels Defined

Once you’ve had your cholesterol levels checked by one of the newer generation blood lipid tests, such as the Vertical Auto Profile (VAP) test or the Lipoprotein Particle Profile (LPP) test, there are certain ranges you want your scores to be in for a number of different categories. Here are my recommendations for a healthy cholesterol level:

  • Total cholesterol: 180–250 mg/dL

  • Total HDL cholesterol: 40–120 mg/dL for women; 35–120 mg/dL for men

  • HDL cholesterol subtypes: Greater than 25 mg/dL for HDL2; greater than 15 mg/dL for HDL3

  • Total LDL cholesterol: 80–140 mg/dL

  • LDL cholesterol subtype Lp(a): less than 30 mg/dL for a standard blood test; less than 10 mg/dL for a VAP test

  • Total triglycerides: 50–100 mg/dL

  • Triglycerides subtype VLDL3: less than 10 mg/dL

In addition to the recommended healthy cholesterol level ranges above, your doctor can review your test results to see if your LDL cholesterol is mostly made up of large, fluffy particles that are not dangerous, or small, dense particles (known as “LDL-pattern-B”) that are dangerous.

If it turns out that your LDL cholesterol is mostly of the small, dense variety, you will want to address your cholesterol levels much more aggressively than if your LDL cholesterol is mostly the large, fluffy type.

WATCH: Is Your Cholesterol Level in the Healthy Range?

More Dr. Sinatra Advice on Achieving Healthy Cholesterol Levels

Want to achieve  ahealthy cholesterol level with your diet? Learn about the dietary changes that are necessary for healthy cholesterol levels.

Want to achieve a healthy cholesterol level with nutritional supplements? Discover which nutrients you need to add to your supplementation program to promote a healthy cholesterol level. 

Want to achieve a healthy cholesterol level with exercise? Find out about the positive impact regular exercise can have on your cholesterol levels.

Read questions and answers about cholesterol.

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