What Does It Mean When Your LDL Cholesterol Is High?

Reviewed on 2/16/2021

What Is Cholesterol?

When you have high LDL cholesterol levels, it means you are at greater risk for cardiovascular disease like heart attack and stroke. The plaque formed by this fatty substance on the inner walls of arteries can block or restrict blood flow.
When you have high LDL cholesterol levels, it means you are at greater risk for cardiovascular disease like heart attack and stroke. The plaque formed by this fatty substance on the inner walls of arteries can block or restrict blood flow.

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that functions in the body to help support cell membranes, manufacture hormones, aid in digestion, and convert vitamin D in the skin.

About 75% of the cholesterol in the body is naturally produced in the liver, and the remaining 25% of cholesterol comes from foods we eat.

What Does a Cholesterol Score Measure?

The American Heart Association recommends adults 20 years and older have their cholesterol levels checked every four to six years. 

Cholesterol scores usually contain three measurements:

  • Low density lipoproteins (LDL)
  • High density lipoproteins (HDL
    • “Good” cholesterol
    • HDL removes LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream and the artery walls
    • A higher HDL score is desirable 
  • Triglycerides 
    • The most common form of fat in the body
    • Can be an energy source
    • A high triglyceride level can mean a higher risk of developing coronary artery disease

What Are Normal Cholesterol Levels?

People who do not have heart disease should aim for the following cholesterol levels:

Cholesterol Levels and Their Meaning
Cholesterol Test ResultsClinical Meaning
Total cholesterol below 200 mg/dLLevels above 200 mg/dL are considered high and mean a higher risk for developing heart disease
LDL cholesterol below 130 mg/dLLDL should be lower than this for those at risk of heart attacks or stroke
HDL cholesterol above 60 mg/dL
  • HDL levels of 60 mg/dL and higher can help reduce the risk for heart disease
  • HDL levels of 40 mg/dL and lower are considered a risk factor for developing heart disease
Triglycerides below 150 mg/dLLevels higher than 150 mg/dL increase the risk of developing heart disease and metabolic syndrome, which is also a risk factor for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke
Non-HDL cholesterol below 160 mg/dL
  • This is the total cholesterol minus the HDL cholesterol
  • Or lower for those at risk of heart attacks or stroke

SLIDESHOW

How to Lower Your Cholesterol & Save Your Heart See Slideshow

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Reviewed on 2/16/2021
References
https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/cholesterol/about-cholesterol/what-your-cholesterol-levels-mean

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/high-cholesterol-the-basics