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Cholesterol is the basic building block of all steroid hormones, and is an essential component of red blood cells and cell membranes.

It is found in a variety of dietary sources, but can be synthesized by the liver if the diet is deficient in cholesterol.

High levels of cholesterol in the blood are associated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease. There is evidence that lowering of an abnormally high cholesterol with diet, exercise, and medications may lead to a reduced risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease.

Total cholesterol is a measurement of:

  • HDL cholesterol
  • LDL cholesterol
  • VLDL cholesterol
  • Free cholesterol

HDL (high-density lipoprotein) carries cholesterol from the cells back to the liver. High levels of HDL are considered beneficial from a cardiovascular risk perspective...the more the better.

LDL (low-density lipoprotein) is the breakdown product of VLDL (very low-density lipoprotein), which carries triglycerides. Elevations of LDL and VLDL are associated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease.

Normal Values*

Total Cholesterol

Desirable 140200 mg/dL 3.65.17 mmol/L


201239 mg/dL 5.26.18 mmol/L
High >240 mg/dL >6.18 mmol/L

HDL Cholesterol

Men 3570 mg/dL 0.9-1.8 mmol/L


3585 mg/dL 0.92.2 mmol/L
Children 3065 mg/dL 0.81.7 mmol/L

LDL Cholesterol

Desirable <130 mg/dL <3.4 mmol/L


130159 mg/dL 3.44.1 mmol/L
High ≥160 mg/dL >4.1 mmol/L

VLDL Cholesterol

Normal 2550% of total cholesterol

*These are general values taken from a variety of sources. The actual normal values may vary from lab to lab and from one type of testing protocol to another.