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A healthy cholesterol range can be viewed in two different ways. The first involves the total blood cholesterol level, while the other looks at the individual components of blood cholesterol. Blood cholesterol levels are determined by taking a blood test and analyzing the blood which is collected, and often the report will also include a note about the normal cholesterol range for reference.
The guidelines used by the American Heart Association suggest that a healthy total blood cholesterol level should be below 200 mg/dL. Many other organizations follow the AHA guidelines, although some doctors have suggested that levels as high as 240 may be perfectly acceptable for some patients. Under the AHA guidelines, a cholesterol range between 200 and 239 is “borderline,” while anything over 240 is a cause for concern, since it can suggest an increased risk of heart disease.
The individual components of blood cholesterol are high density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good cholesterol,” low density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad cholesterol,” and triglycerides. HDL levels should be between 40 and 50 mg/dL for men, and 50 to 60 mg/dL for women, although slightly higher readings are also acceptable. LDL levels should be below 100 mg/dL, while triglycerides should be below 105 mg/dL. HDL should ideally make up around 25% of the total blood cholesterol level, although a slightly higher ratio is not a major cause for concern.
Some patients have cholesterol ranges as low as 90 mg/dL in total, which can put them at risk of stroke. As a general rule, however, low cholesterol ranges are a cause for commendation, as they indicate that a patient is eating a healthy diet and exercising, although he or she may have a genetic advantage which promotes low cholesterol levels. Individual fluctuations in cholesterol range can also be caused by factors like recent dietary changes and exercise, so an anomalous reading should not be a cause for panic.
If a patient does have a high blood cholesterol level or an unusually high level of LDL cholesterol, a doctor may discuss some options for lowering the range for better health. Diet and lifestyle changes can sometimes reduce cholesterol levels and bring them into a normal range, and it is also possible to use medications to manage extremely high cholesterol levels. These medications are more effective when combined with dietary changes, so they should not be regarded as a magic bullet to fix cholesterol problems.