Total cholesterol is computed by adding three results: LDL level, HDL level and 20 percent of triglyceride level, according to the American Heart Association. A healthy total cholesterol score is under 180 milligrams per deciliter. This information helps determine an individual's risk of a stroke or heart attack.
LDL, the "bad" cholesterol, helps form plaque that clogs arteries, preventing proper blood flow, explains the American Heart Association. If this happens near the heart, there is a risk of a heart attack or stroke. Arteries leading to the legs sometimes fill with plaque, too, and this limits blood flow to the lower extremities. Consumption of too many saturated and trans fats increases LDL levels.
HDL, the "good" cholesterol, pulls HDL from arteries and carries it to the liver, the American Heart Association states. There the bad cholesterol is broken down so it is able to be excreted. High HDL levels help guard against stroke and heart attack. Smoking, extra body weight, inactivity, genetics and type 2 diabetes lower HDL.
Tricglycerides are fats used to store energy until it is needed, confirms the American Heart Association. There is a correlation between plaque-filled arteries and elevated triglyceride levels. Obesity, inactivity, smoking, excessive amounts of alcohol and an extremely high-carbohydrate diet contribute to high triglycerides. In certain cases, genetics plays a role.