Cholesterol Levels: What Numbers Should You Aim for?

High cholesterol is a risk factor for stroke and heart disease, but what is considered high? The four items that make up a "cholesterol screening" are total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides. What should your numbers be? These are the numbers for adults over 20.

Total Cholesterol

Total cholesterol should be under 200 mg/dl (milligrams per decilitre of blood). A cholesterol test that reports higher than 200 should be confirmed by another test. If your total cholesterol is 200 or less, check the other parts of the screening test. Readings over 240 mg/dl are considered high, while anything between 200 and 240 mg/dl is considered borderline. Even at borderline numbers, your history may prompt your doctor to recommend starting medication or dietary changes to bring down the numbers.


LDL, low density lipoproteins, should not be higher than 130 mg/dl. Anything over 160 mg/dl is considered high, while falling between these numbers is borderline. The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) recommends keeping your LDL level under 100 mg/dl.


HDL, high density lipoproteins, is the "good cholesterol." This is the only part of your screening that you want to be higher. For a man, HDL should be at least 40 mg/dl and for a woman, around 50 to 60 mg/dl. Anything higher than 60 mg/dl can actually cut some of your risk factors for stroke and heart disease, while anything under 40 mg/dl will put you at higher risk.


Triglycerides are fat cells in the blood and are often included in cholesterol screenings. You want your triglyceride numbers to fall under 150 mg/dl. High is a level over 200 mg/dl; over 500 mg/dl is considered very high. Borderline is between those numbers.