The desirable total cholesterol level is less than 200 milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. A total cholesterol level of 240 and above is high.
The total cholesterol level is composed of LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and triglycerides, explains the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The optimal level of LDL cholesterol, the bad cholesterol that blocks the arteries, is less than 100 milligrams per deciliter. While an HDL cholesterol level of 60 milligrams per deciliter lowers the risk for heart disease, an HDL level of 40 and below is a major risk factor for heart problems.