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How do I Interpret my Cholesterol Numbers?

Cholesterol is measured in millimoles (mmol) per liter (L) of blood. Consider these general guidelines when you get your cholesterol test results back to see if your cholesterol falls in ideal levels.

Importantly, your doctor may determine that your cholesterol needs treatment based on the presence of heart disease or on your individual risk of heart attack, even if the cholesterol values do not seem particularly elevated.

Total Cholesterol*

  • Below 5.0 mmol/L Best
  • 5.0 – 6.2 mmol/L Borderline high
  • Above 6.2 mmol/L High

LDL Cholesterol Levels

  • Below 1.8 mmol/L Best for people with heart disease
  • Below 2.6 mmol/L Best for people at risk of heart disease.
  • Below (1.8 mmol/L) may be ideal for people who have heart disease.
  • 2.6-3.3 mmol/L Near ideal
  • 3.4-4.1 mmol/L Borderline high
  • 4.1-4.9 mmol/L High
  • Above 4.9 mmol/L Very high

HDL Cholesterol Levels

  • Below 1 mmol/L (men) Poor
  • Below 1.3 mmol/L (women) Poor
  • 1.3-1.5 mmol/L Better
  • Above 1.5 mmol/L Best

Triglycerides Levels

  • Below 1.7 mmol/L Best
  • 1.7-2.2 mmol/L Borderline high
  • 2.3-5.6 mmol/L High
  • Above 5.6 mmol/L Very high

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that a triglyceride level of 1.3 mmol/L or lower is considered “optimal.” The AHA says this optimal level would improve your heart health. However, the AHA doesn’t recommend drug treatment to reach this level. Instead, for those trying to lower their triglycerides to this level, lifestyle changes such as diet, weight loss and physical activity are encouraged. That’s because triglycerides usually respond well to dietary and lifestyle changes.