Recommended Cholesterol Levels for People at Risk for Heart Disease

By: Bobbie Hasselbring

If you have diabetes or heart disease, you need to keep your LDL cholesterol levels lower than the average person to help you stay as healthy as possible and reduce your risk of complications. Your recommended ranges for total cholesterol and HDL - the good cholesterol - are the same as for the people who are not at risk for heart disease.

Use the charts below to find out what the results from your fasting lipid test mean. There are separate charts for total cholesterol, and HDL cholesterol. Look in the left column for the number that your doctor told you, then read across the rows to the right to see how health specialists define your range and what it means in terms of your risk for heart disease. Then, you'll learn what your LDL levels should be.


How Total Cholesterol Impacts Your Risk of Heart Disease

Total Cholesterol NumberWhat Range Your Numbers Fall InHow Your Numbers Impact Your Risk Less than 200 mg/dL Desirable You want your numbers to be in this range to keep your risk for heart disease low. 200 to 239 mg/dL Borderline High Your levels are higher than they should be, and you need to take action to lower them. 240 mg/dL and above High Your levels are too high and are putting you at increased risk for developing heart disease or complications from heart disease. You must take action.

How HDL Levels Impact Your Risk of Heart Disease

HDL Cholesterol NumberWhat Range Your Numbers Fall InHow Your Numbers Impact Your Risk 40 mg/dL and below Low Your risk is increased. The lower your HDL readings, the higher your risk of heart disease. 60 mg/dL and above High Your risk is lower. High HDL levels lower your risk for heart disease.

When you already have heart disease or risk factors for it, your recommended LDL range depends on what your risk factors are. Use the chart below to learn what your LDL cholesterol goal should be. Find your risk factors in the left column, then follow it across to see how doctors classify this category and what your goal level is.


How LDL Levels Impact Your Risk of Heart Disease

Your Risk Factors LDL Cholesterol Goal

Your Risk FactorsLDL Cholesterol Goal

I have any one of these:


  • heart disease
  • diabetes
  • peripheral vascular disease
  • abdominal aortic aneurysm
  • TIAs or strokes, which are symptomatic carotid artery disease
  • Your doctor has told you that your 10-year risk for heart attack is greater than 20%.

Less than 100 mg/dL At least two of the statements below are true for me.

  • I am a man age 45 or older.
  • I am a woman age 55 or older.
  • I have a family history of heart disease.
  • I smoke.
  • I have high blood pressure.
  • I have an HDL level less than 40 mg/dL.
  • My doctor has told me my risk of having a heart attack in the next 10 years is less than or equal to 20%.

Less than 130 mg/dL None or one of the above statements is true for me. Less than 160 mg/dL