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Cholesterol Definitions

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Total Cholesterol

Your total cholesterol level is the sum of all the types of cholesterol in your blood. The higher your total cholesterol, the greater your risk for heart disease. A total cholesterol level of under 200 mg/dL (5.18 mmol/L) is desirable.

HDL (Good) Cholesterol

HDL cholesterol is known as “good” cholesterol because high levels of HDL can protect against heart attack. Medical experts believe that HDL carries cholesterol away from the arteries and removes excess cholesterol from arterial plaque, slowing its buildup. For HDL cholesterol, higher levels are better. An HDL level above 60 mg/dL (1.55 mmol/L) is desirable.

Triglycerides

Triglycerides are a form of fat that the body uses to store energy. Elevated triglycerides can be due to physical inactivity, cigarette smoking, excess alcohol consumption, being overweight/obese, and a diet very high in carbohydrates. Triglyceride levels of less than 150 mg/dL (1.70 mmol/L) are desirable.

LDL (Bad) Cholesterol

When LDL (bad) cholesterol circulates in the blood, it can slowly build up in the inner walls of the arteries that feed the heart and brain. This “plaque” is a thick, hard deposit that can narrow the arteries and make them less flexible. Heart attack or stroke can result if a clot forms or an artery is blocked. An LDL cholesterol below 100 mg/dL (2.59 mmol/L) is optimal.

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