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How do you interpret cholesterol test results?

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Quick Answer

Cholesterol test results consist of four values, with numbers corresponding to measurements of the total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and triglycerides, according to Drugs.com. A proper interpretation of these results depends heavily on a variety of factors, such as age, health conditions and personal risk values.

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Full Answer

In the United States, cholesterol is calculated in milligrams per deciliter of blood, whereas in Canada and Europe, it is calculated in millimoles per liter. Optimal values for a healthy person are a total cholesterol less than 200 milligrams per deciliter, with HDL levels of 60 or greater, LDL numbers less than 100, and triglycerides below 150, notes the Mayo Clinic. When levels fall into these parameters, the cholesterol test does not need to be repeated for another five years, reports Drugs.com.

Borderline high results are defined as a total blood cholesterol level between 200 and 239 milligrams per deciliter, with an HDL level less than 35, and/or triglycerides between 200 and 400. At these values, it is important to check other risk factors for heart disease. A healthy lifestyle with increased physical activity is critical, and eating foods low in cholesterol and saturated fat is necessary, advise experts from Drugs.com.

When cholesterol test results are significantly higher than recommended, lifestyle changes may still be enough to lower the numbers. Eating a nutritious, healthy diet, quitting smoking and increasing exercise all can affect cholesterol levels. When these actions do not make the difference, a doctor may prescribe cholesterol-lowering medications.

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