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Upper & Lower Limits for Cholesterol

author image Jake Wayne
Jake Wayne has written professionally for more than 12 years, including assignments in business writing, national magazines and book-length projects. He has a psychology degree from the University of Oregon and black belts in three martial arts.
Upper & Lower Limits for Cholesterol
A gloved medical hand holding a blood sample over a chart with cholesterol numbers on it. Photo Credit: jarun011/iStock/Getty Images

Testing your cholesterol and understanding the results is an important part of personal health maintenance, says Dr. Mehmet Oz, author of "You: The Owner's Manual." Each of the three types of cholesterol have their own scale for determining how healthy your blood cholesterol levels are.

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Cholesterol Testing

Your cholesterol test begins with a blood draw. According to information at, you should fast for approximately eight hours prior to your blood draw. Eating in the hours before your cholesterol test can artificially raise or lower cholesterol levels as you digest the food. Your blood samples then go to a lab for analysis. In most cases, you'll receive your results within a few days to a week.

LDL Cholesterol

LDL cholesterol, or low-density lipoproteins, are bad cholesterol. Though necessary for carrying materials to your body cells, these bodies tend to clump up in your bloodstream. According to Oz, this restricts or even blocks blood flow, and can lead to heart disease, heart attack and stroke. The American Heart Association reports the maximum healthy level of LDL cholesterol is 129 mg of LDL per deciliter of blood. The AHA recommends lower levels for optimum health, especially for those already at risk for heart disease.

HDL Cholesterol

HDL cholesterol, or high-density lipoproteins, are the good cholesterol. They clean the bloodstream, promoting heart health. American Heart Association and guidelines recommend 60 mg of HDL per deciliter as the minimum healthy level.


Not themselves a health problem, triglycerides are formed in response to unhealthy habits. Physical inactivity, smoking, excess alcohol and a diet too rich in sugars and carbohydrates are examples of behaviors that can raise your triglyceride count to unhealthy levels. The American Heart Association recommends 150 mg per deciliter as the maximum healthy triglyceride level.

Total Blood Cholesterol

Total blood cholesterol calculates your overall cholesterol held by taking into account the relationship between LDL, HDL and triglycerides. To calculate total blood cholesterol, subtract your HDL count from your LDL count, then add one fifth of your triglyceride count. According to the American Heart Association, your maximum healthy total blood cholesterol level is 200 mg per deciliter.

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