So just what are normal cholesterol levels? We give you the scoop on the lipid profile test and targets.

Blood Test - Masterfile

Everyone age 20 and over should have a blood test called a lipid profile at least once every five years to help determine their risk of coronary heart disease. The test measures the following lipids and lipoproteins in the blood:

  • total cholesterol
  • low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol
  • high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol
  • triglycerides

The test is performed at your doctor's office or at a local laboratory. To get accurate results, you will need to fast for at least 10 hours before the test.

The National Cholesterol Education Program advises that you keep your total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides below a certain level—and your HDL cholesterol above a certain number—to protect yourself from coronary heart disease and its complications such as a heart attack. These levels are shown below.

Keep in mind, however, that everyone's situation is different, so your doctor may suggest that you aim for different levels.

Target Lipid Levels

Total cholesterol: Less than 200 mg/dL

LDL cholesterol

  • 0 to 1 risk factors*: Less than 160 mg/dL
  • 2 or more risk factors* and less than a 10% risk of a heart attack in the next 10 years†: Less than 130 mg/dL
  • 2 or more risk factors* and a 10 to 20% risk of a heart attack in the next 10 years†: Less than 130 mg/dL (optional goal of less than 100 mg/dL)
  • You have coronary heart disease (you’ve had a heart attack, bouts of stable or unstable angina, or have undergone angioplasty or bypass surgery); you have other cardiovascular diseases (a history of transient ischemic attack or stroke, peripheral arterial disease, or abdominal aortic aneurysm); you have diabetes; or you have more than a 20% risk of a heart attack in the next 10 years†: Less than 100 mg/dL (with an optional goal of less than 70 mg/dL)

HDL cholesterol

Men: 40 mg/dL or higher Women: 50 mg/dL or higher in women Preferably 60 mg/dL or higher for both genders

Triglycerides: Less than 150 mg/dL

Key

* These risk factors include:

  • cigarette smoking
  • blood pressure of 140/90 mm Hg or above or taking blood pressure medication
  • HDL cholesterol below 40 mg/dL
  • family history of a premature coronary event (a heart attack, angioplasty, or bypass surgery before age 55 in a first-degree male relative [your father or a brother or son] and before age 65 in a female first-degree relative [your mother or a sister or daughter])
  • and older age (age 45 and older if you are a man; age 55 and older if you are a woman).

† Go to http://hp2010.nhlbihin.net/atpiii/calculator.asp?usertype=pub to determine your risk of heart attack in the next 10 years.

Publication Review By: Roger S. Blumenthal, M.D. and Simeon Margolis, M.D., Ph.D.

Published: 14 Mar 2011

Last Modified: 15 Jan 2015