How Low Should My Cholesterol Be?

When it comes to cholesterol, except for the form called High Density Cholesterol or HDL (also known as “good cholesterol”), the lower the better. This is especially true of Low Density Cholesterol or LDL (also known as “bad cholesterol”). It was thought that an LDL of less than 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) was the goal but recent studies show that people who achieve an LDL of 70 mg/dl after a heart attack are at much lower risk of a second heart attack than those at an LDL of 100. The good news is that these goals can be achieved by anyone using modern treatments.

To calculate your 10-year risk of a heart attack (needed in the chart below), go to:

The new cholesterol goals are as follows:

Risk Category LDL Goal Initiate Lifestyle Change
High Risk
(coronary heart disease or diabetes)
<100 mg/dl
(optional goal < 70 mg/dl)
>100 mg/dl
Moderately High Risk
(2 or more risk factors,
10-20% 10-year risk)
<130 mg/dl >130 mg/dl
Moderate Risk
(2 or more risk factors
<10% 10-year risk)
<130 mg/dl >130 mg/dl
Low Risk
(0-1 risk factors)
<160 mg/dl >160 mg/dl

Risk Factors include:

  • Cigarette smoking
  • High blood pressure (>140/90)
  • Low HDL cholesterol (<40 mg/dl)
  • Family history of premature coronary heart disease
  • Age (men>45 years, women>55years)

< means less than and > means more than

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