How to read cholesterol blood test results

Understanding cholesterol levels can be confusing, but it is an important part of your health. When it comes to understanding the difference between lipids, "good cholesterol," "bad cholesterol" and triglycerides, you often need expert advice. Learn what each term means and what the American Heart Association's guidelines are for healthy levels of each.


Fats, cholesterol and other waxy substances fall under the classification of lipids. The lipids that cause particular concern are triglycerides.


Triglycerides are fats that, along with cholesterol, are thought to be a major factor in the development of coronary artery disease. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a level of less than 150 mg/dL.


High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is known as "good cholesterol" and is thought to help remove build-up in the coronary arteries. According to the American Heart Association, HDL makes up one-forth to one-third of the total cholesterol levels.


Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), better known as "bad cholesterol" or just "cholesterol," sticks to the walls of the artery, causing build up and contributing to coronary artery disease. The American Heart Association recommends a level of less than 100 mg/dL.

Total Cholesterol

Total cholesterol is the total of both HDL and LDL levels. The American Heart Association recommends a total cholesterol level of less than 200 mg/dL.

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About the Author

Valarie Juntunen has been involved in direct health care since 1999 and began freelance writing in 1997. She is a Michigan registered nurse and attended the National Rural Institute on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, where she developed her passion for psychological- and sociological-based nursing. Juntunen holds an associate's degree in nursing from Finlandia University.