Cholesterol tests measure the amount of cholesterol found in your blood. The most common measurements include total cholesterol, high density lipoprotein, or HDL cholesterol and low density lipoprotein, or LDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is the most commonly associated with an increased risk of disease. Knowing the normal and high values for LDL cholesterol can help your doctor determine if you need any treatment to lower your cholesterol levels.
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LDL cholesterol, commonly referred to as “bad” cholesterol, is the primary carrier of cholesterol in the blood. LDL is made up of cholesterol, fats and protein, MedlinePlus, a service of the National Institutes of Health, explains. LDL's primary function is to transport fat and cholesterol throughout your body. Fat is used as an energy source while cholesterol can be used to make hormones or in the formation of new cells. Your body needs LDL cholesterol, but in large amounts LDL is usually dangerous.
Healthy LDL Levels
An LDL test typically occurs after you have fasted overnight and consists of a healthcare professional drawing blood and then checking the LDL levels. Normal results often correspond to the continued health of the patient. An LDL reading of less than 100 mg/dL is optimal for normal patients, according to MayoClinic.com. However, if you have a history of heart disease, an optimal LDL level would be any value under 70 mg/dL. Furthermore, LDL levels between 100 to 129 mg/dL are considered near optimal and are still linked to a healthy lifestyle.
Some patients will have abnormally high levels of LDL. An LDL value of 130 to 159 is considered borderline high, MedlinePlus reports. High levels range from 160 to 189, while a very high level of LDL is any value greater than 190 mg/dL. Therefore, an LDL value of 185 is considered high and often requires medical treatment. Though not considered very high, 185 is still higher then normal and is related to cardiovascular disease.
Complications of High LDL
High levels of LDL in the blood can cause a variety of issues in your blood vessels. Excess LDL levels can adhere to and enter the walls of your arteries. Along with other substances, LDL in the arteries can form a thick, hard deposit, or plaque, that can obstruct the blood vessel, warns the American Heart Association. If the plaque is in the arteries supplying the heart, then you can suffer a heart attack, and if the arteries in the brain are affected, then you may experience a stroke. Any LDL level higher than 160 mg/dL increases your risk of arterial disease.