The desired amount of total cholesterol is 200 milligrams per deciliter of blood or less, according to MedlinePlus. The American Heart Association recommends 180 milligrams per deciliter or less.
Increasing HDL cholesterol levels above 60 milligrams per deciliter and lowering LDL cholesterol levels below 100 milligrams per deciliter reduces the risk of heart disease, states MedlinePlus. Weight, age, gender and physical activity as well as major risk factors such as cigarette smoking and high blood pressure affect cholesterol levels. The AHA also notes that genetics and diabetes affect HDL levels. MedlinePlus recommends special diets, medications and increasing physical activity to lower total cholesterol.
The lipid panel measures high-density lipoprotein, which is considered good cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein, which is considered bad cholesterol, and triglyceride fat, notes Mayo Clinic. LDL cholesterol is a contributing factor in heart disease, so target numbers for this type of cholesterol can vary. The normal range for LDL cholesterol is 100 to 129 milligrams per deciliter.