Defining healthy cholesterol levels
| By Dr. Stephen Sinatra
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 Lipoprotein Particle Profile (LPP) test (developed by SpectraCell), the NMR LipoProfile Test (developed by LabCorp), or the Cardio IQ Report (offered through Quest Diagnostics), there are certain ranges you want your scores to be in for a number of different categories. Here are my recommendations for healthy cholesterol levels:
- Total cholesterol: 180–240 mg/dL
- Total HDL cholesterol: 40–90 mg/dL for women; 35–90 mg/dL for men (Note: Very high HDL over 90 can be dysfunctional)
- HDL cholesterol subtypes: Greater than 25 mg/dL for HDL2; greater than 15 mg/dL for HDL3
- Total LDL cholesterol: 80–130 mg/dL
- LDL cholesterol subtype Lp(a): less than 30 mg/dL
- 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.
This article originally appeared on Dr. Sinatra’s website.
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