When it comes to heart disease, each of these cholesterol levels matters.
- Total blood cholesterol level. This is a measurement of all the cholesterol in your blood, which includes both LDL - known as the bad cholesterol - and HDL - known as the good cholesterol. The higher your total blood cholesterol, the greater your risk for heart disease. In general, a total cholesterol level of less than 200 mg/dL is considered desirable. Depending on your health, you may need to aim for a level lower than this.
- LDL cholesterol level. LDL is short for low-density lipoprotein. LDL cholesterol is known as the bad, or least desirable, cholesterol because this is the type that may build up inside your arteries. The higher your LDL level, the greater your risk for heart disease. If you have CHD, an LDL of less than 100 mg/dL is generally considered desirable.
- HDL cholesterol level. HDL is short for high-density lipoprotein. HDL cholesterol is known as the good, or highly desirable, cholesterol because this type helps remove excess cholesterol from your blood. A low level of HDL is a major risk factor for heart disease. A high level of HDL lowers your risk. A level of 40 mg/dL or more is considered desirable. A level of 60 mg/dL or more is considered a "negative risk factor" - that is, it helps to offset other risk factors for CHD.
The levels that are desirable for you depend on whether you have other risk factors for heart disease or already have heart disease. Your doctor can tell you what levels you should be aiming for.