What Do Cholesterol Levels Mean? Cholesterol tests often yield confusing results. Doctors often do not take the time to explain the numbers and analyze acceptable test results with patients. Rather than feel puzzled, here’s help on what exactly are LDL and HDL cholesterol levels and the numbers you should aim to receive in your next cholesterol test. LDL and HDL LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein—it is often referred to as the “bad cholesterol level.” HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein, or “good cholesterol level.” Yes, not all cholesterol is bad. Physicians recommend at least a three to one ratio of HDL to LDL, meaning you should have three times the amount of good cholesterol in your blood versus the bad. Total Cholesterol Cholesterol is measured in milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood. You should try to reach for a total cholesterol level below 200 mg/dL. Anything in the 200-239 mg/dL is considered “borderline high” and over 240 mg/dL is high. LDL For LDL levels, you should aim for a number under 100 mg/dL and an HDL level of 60 mg/dL and above. (Low for bad, high for good.) An elevated LDL cholesterol level is one of the major risks of heart disease—if yours falls too high (over 100 mg/dL), you should focus more on lowering this number rather than your overall cholesterol level. Your LDL number can easily be swayed with just a few changes in your lifestyle: eating healthier, exercising and losing fat. According to the Mayo Clinic, the following puts you at risk of heart disease and you should carefully monitor your LDL level: previous heart attacks, artery blockages, diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, family history of heart disease and age (older than 45 for a male and 55 for a female). HDL For HDL levels, as stated above, it is best to aim for an HDL level of 60 mg/dL and above. Higher HDL cholesterol levels help prevent arteries from clogging and mean lower risk of heart disease. If you haven’t checked your cholesterol level recently, schedule a test with your doctor so you can gauge your risk of heart disease.