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Quality Health Care and You - Diabetes

Types of Cholesterol

05/22/2008

Question:

I`m not sure if this is the right forum to ask in, but I just had my cholesterol levels checked and got numbers for HDL, LDL, and triglycerides. What is the difference between them and in which range should each number be? Thanks.

Answer:

Thanks for your question. When having a lipid profile done, it`s important to have all of your lipids checked (not just total cholesterol). HDL which stands for High Density Lipoprotein, is known as "good" cholesterol because it helps recycle cholesterol and get it out of the body. According to the National Cholesterol Education Program, this level should be at least above 40 mg/dL, but the higher the better (60 and above is optimal).

LDL stands for Low Density Lipoprotein and is known as "bad" cholesterol. This type of cholesterol deposits lipids in the arteries and has been associated with an elevated risk for heart disease. Your desirable LDL level will depend on your risk factors for heart disease.

The goal for LDL is less than 100 mg/dL if you have known coronary artery disease (i.e you`ve had a heart attack, bypass surgery or stroke). If you have 2 or more risk factors for heart disease (such as diabetes or high blood pressure), your LDL should be below 130 mg/dL. Finally, if you have no known risk of heart disease, your LDL should be below 160 mg/dL. The closer your LDL level is to 100, the better.

Triglycerides are sugar and fat molecules (1 molecule of glycerol and 3 fatty acids). These are the main fat found in our food and also fat that is in storage in the body that can be used for energy. Typically, triglycerides are elevated in the blood if the level has been taken after a meal, if a person is diabetic, overweight or obese, or has a high sugar or high alcohol consumption. The optimal level for triglycerides is less than 150 mg/dL.

For more information on how to improve your lipid profile through diet, search this section for previously asked questions, or check out the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute or the American Heart Association

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Response by:

Lisa Cicciarello Andrews, MEd, RD, LD Lisa Cicciarello Andrews, MEd, RD, LD
Adjunct Faculty
University of Cincinnati