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What do my LDL numbers mean when I get my blood work?

December 12, 2019 3 min read


Getting a cholesterol test is the simple part. Actually understanding the numbers you get back, without help, can be deceptively confusing. Here's what all the terms on your blood work test mean.


Total Blood Cholesterol

Your total blood cholesterol is an aggregated total of all of the different types of cholesterol, and the total level of them all in your blood.

Total blood cholesterol is a good marker of how healthy your cholesterol levels are, but they aren't the be all and end all.

It's important to also pay close attention to the other markers, which are explained below.



LDL means Low density lipoproteins, which are considered the 'bad' type of cholesterol. This is the type of cholesterol that builds up in your arteries and can lead to long term heart problems.

When reading your test, the values you should be looking for are:

Good: less than 100

Okay: Between 100 and 129

Borderline high: 130 to 159

High: 160 to 189

Very high: Anything over 190



High density lipoproteins are the 'good' type of cholesterol, and can actually help fight against heart problems and long term health issues.

When considering your HDL numbers, higher is better. Here's what you should be looking for:

A value below 40 is a cause for concern, and puts you at higher risk of complications.

Above 60 is a good value, and may contribute to heart health.



VLDL, or very low density lipoproteins, might not be on every test result. VLDL is the part of your lipids (oily body molecules, usually fats) that carry triglycerides, which are explained below.



Triglycerides are a fat that's found in everyone's body, all the time.

Whenever you eat, food is broken down into simpler parts, including triglycerides, which then move through your body to where they're needed.

However, if you're eating high fat food, or more calories than you're burning, then you'll have more triglycerides than your body needs, so they're going to be stored as fats around your body, leading to you gaining weight.


Reading triglyceride levels:

Normal: Around 150mg per decilitre, or 1500mg per litre.

Approaching high: 150 to 199mg per decilitre.

High: 200 to 499 mg per decilitre.

Anything above 500mg is considered very high, and should be serious cause for concern.



When reading your cholesterol screening results, take it slow and take your time. It's easy to misread a value and misunderstand your results.

If in doubt, it's also a good idea to discuss your results with your healthcare provider, especially if you're concerned about your levels.

Remember, even if your levels of cholesterol are in the healthy range, you should be screened for cholesterol levels every five years, as a lot can change in this time.


Important information: The information provided on this website is of a general nature and information purposes only. It does not take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. It is not personalised health advice and must not be relied upon as such. Before making any decisions about your health or changes to medication, diet and exercise routines you should determine whether the information is appropriate in terms of your particular circumstances and seek advice from a medical professional.