What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance produced in your liver. The body uses cholesterol to make hormones, cell membranes, and bile acids that break down the fats we eat. Although the body makes enough cholesterol on its own, saturated and trans fats from your diet add to cholesterol levels.

Total Cholesterol:

Desirable: <200 | Borderline High: 200-239 | High: >240

High-density lipoproteins (HDL)

HDL is often called “good” cholesterol because it carries excess cholesterol from the arteries to the liver for excretion. When having your HDL levels checked, higher numbers are better.

At Risk:

Men <40 | Women 50

Low-density lipoproteins (LDL)

LDL is often called “bad” cholesterol because it transports cholesterol to tissues throughout the body and contributes to the dangerous buildup of plaque and narrowing of the arteries.

Optimal: <100 | Near Optimal: 100-129 | Borderline High: 130-159 | High: 160-189 | Very High: >190


Excess calories are turned into triglycerides before they’re transported to fat cells to be stored. High levels may contribute to atherosclerosis, known as hardening of the arteries.

Normal: <150 | Borderline High: 150-199 | High: >200


For more information about cholesterol, visit the American Heart Association website at Heart.org.

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