What are healthy levels of cholesterol?Total blood cholesterol should be below 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) . But it is also important to know your levels of HDL (“good” cholesterol) and LDL (“bad” cholesterol). Any HDL below 35 mg/dl is considered to be abnormal. Women have an average HDL of about 55 mg/dl, and men about 44 mg/dl. Unlike total and LDL cholesterol, for HDL cholesterol, “higher is better and lower is worse” in a sliding scale from between 20 and 70 mg/dl. It is thought that one of the main reasons premenopausal women have a lower heart attack rate than men stems from the protection associated with their having higher HDL levels, most likely due to the presence of estrogen. HDL levels influence risk independent of total cholesterol. In other words, even if your total cholesterol is considered “normal,” if your HDL is less than 35, then you are still at an increased risk. For those with heart disease, LDL levels below 100 mg/dl are now recommended, but levels up to 130 are considered safe if you don’t have other risk factors. As with total cholesterol levels (below 200 mg/dl is considered desirable), there is a sliding scale of risk.
Although some heart disease prevention experts recommend the use of ratios of “bad” to “good” cholesterol, we recommend instead that you knowyour numbers for both good and bad. If the good cholesterol is low (your HDL), then work even harder to lower your so-called bad cholesterol.