LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol

LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol is "bad" cholesterol, which carries mostly fat and only a small amount of protein from the liver to other parts of the body. A high LDL cholesterol level is considered a risk factor for coronary artery disease (CAD) because, under certain conditions, it can cause hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).

Cholesterol is measured either in milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL) or in millimoles per liter of blood (mmol/L).

  • An LDL cholesterol level of less than 100 mg/dL (less than 2.6 mmol/L) is considered optimal.
  • 100 to 129 (2.6 to 3.35) is considered near optimal.
  • 130 to 159 (3.35 to 4.10) is considered borderline high.
  • 160 to 189 (4.12 to 4.88) is considered high.
  • 190 and above (4.90 to 4.88) is considered very high.

People who have at least a moderate risk for developing heart disease (especially those who have diabetes) may benefit from lowering their LDL cholesterol levels. The specific target LDL level depends on a person's number and type of risk factors.

Last Updated: July 11, 2008

Author: Robin Parks, MS

Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - Cardiology

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