If the cholesterol score is less than 200 milligrams per deciliter, a person is at the optimal level. A level between 200 and 239 means borderline risk, and anything over 240 signals high risk, says eMedicineHealth; however, the American Heart Association recommends a level less than 180 as optimal.
Cholesterol level is calculated by adding HDL (good cholesterol) levels, LDL (bad cholesterol) levels, and 20 percent of the triglyceride levels, per the American Heart Association. HDL cholesterol is optimal at higher levels but can be lowered by genes, Type 2 diabetes, beta blockers and steroids. Being overweight, inactive and a smoker can also lower the HDL level. LDL cholesterol should be at a low level to improve the health of the heart. Eating foods high in saturated and trans fats may increase the LDL level.
Triglycerides are the most common type of fat present in the body and may change based on age and gender. A high triglyceride level, especially when combined with a high LDL level, can increase risks to heart health. The doctor gathers information about other risk factors, such as family history of heart disease, age, and smoking, and combines this with the cholesterol results to determine the course of action, claims the American Heart Association.