Understanding Your Cholesterol Test Results: What Do Your Numbers Mean?
Written by: Lombe Mwansa
Published: 27 March 2023


By interpreting your numbers and making lifestyle changes if necessary, you can improve your cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease and other health problems.

Do you know what’s lurking in your arteries?

It’s not just blood, but also cholesterol – a vital substance that our bodies produce to build and maintain cell membranes, make hormones, and aid in digestion. However, having high levels of cholesterol can increase your risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and other health problems. That’s why in my previous blog post Why Getting Your Cholesterol Checked is a Must-Do for Your Health!, I discussed the importance of getting your cholesterol checked and how it can help you make better decisions about your health. In this follow-up post, I will go a step further and help you understand your cholesterol results.

Cholesterol test

Getting your cholesterol checked regularly is crucial. But what do your cholesterol test results mean, and how can you interpret them? Let’s find out.

When you get a cholesterol test, your doctor will typically check four numbers:

  1. Total cholesterol: This is the sum of your LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, and 20% of your triglyceride level.
  2. LDL cholesterol: This is considered the “bad” cholesterol because it can build up in your arteries, increasing your risk of heart disease.
  3. HDL cholesterol: This is considered the “good” cholesterol because it helps remove LDL cholesterol from your arteries.
  4. Triglycerides: These are a type of fat found in your blood that can also contribute to heart disease if they are too high.

What the numbers mean:

  • Total cholesterol: A healthy total cholesterol level is below 5.2 mmol/L. If your total cholesterol is between 5.2-6.1 mmol/L, it’s considered borderline high, and if it’s above 6.1 mmol/L, it’s considered high.
  • LDL cholesterol: A healthy LDL cholesterol level is below 2.6 mmol/L. If your LDL cholesterol is between 2.6-3.3 mmol/L, it’s considered near optimal, and if it’s above 4.1 mmol/L, it’s considered high.
  • HDL cholesterol: A healthy HDL cholesterol level is 1.6 mmol/L or higher for men, and 1.9 mmol/L or higher for women. If your HDL cholesterol is below these levels, it’s considered low.
  • Triglycerides: A healthy triglyceride level is below 1.7 mmol/L. If your triglycerides are between 1.7-2.2 mmol/L, it’s considered borderline high, and if they’re above 5.6 mmol/L, it’s considered very high.

Now that you understand what the numbers mean, let’s talk about how to interpret your results.

If your total cholesterol is high, your healthcare provider will likely recommend lifestyle changes such as eating a heart-healthy diet, exercising regularly, quitting smoking, and losing weight if necessary.

If your LDL cholesterol is high, your healthcare provider may recommend medication to help lower it.

If your HDL cholesterol is low, your healthcare provider may recommend lifestyle changes to raise it, such as losing weight, exercising regularly, and quitting smoking.

If your triglycerides are high, your healthcare provider may recommend lifestyle changes to lower them, such as reducing your intake of refined carbohydrates and alcohol.

What do my cholesterol test results say about your heart health?

A the end of February this year I had some blood test done and this is what said about my cholesterol:

  • Total cholesterol: 4.9 mmol/L
  • LDL cholesterol: 3.2 mmol/L
  • HDL cholesterol: 1.4 mmol/L
  • Triglycerides: 0.7 mmol/L

Based on these results, my total cholesterol is considered “healthy”. However, my LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) is slightly high, while your HDL cholesterol (good kind) is below the healthy range. My triglycerides are well within the healthy range.

Improving my cholesterol levels

I spoke to my doctor and he said he would like me to have another test in 3 months. I want to improve my cholesterol levels without medication so here are some of the things I am doing:

Eating a heart-healthy diet:

A diet that’s high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can help lower your LDL cholesterol and raise your HDL cholesterol. Avoid foods that are high in saturated and trans fats, such as fried foods, fatty meats, and processed snacks.

Exercise regularly:

Regular physical activity can help raise your HDL cholesterol and improve your overall heart health. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week.

Maintain a healthy weight:

Being overweight or obese can raise your LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and lower your HDL cholesterol. Losing weight through a combination of healthy eating and regular exercise can help improve your cholesterol levels. My focus is to reduce the excess belly fat by marking optimal food choices and moving my body in a variety of ways not just death by cardio.

Foods that help

Oats and oat bran:

Oats are rich in a type of soluble fiber called beta-glucan, which can help lower LDL cholesterol.


Nuts are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which can help lower LDL cholesterol. Examples include almonds, walnuts, and peanuts.

Fatty fish:

Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help raise HDL cholesterol and lower triglycerides.

Fruits and vegetables:

Fruits and vegetables are high in soluble fiber, which can help lower LDL cholesterol. They also contain antioxidants and other compounds that can benefit heart health.


Soy products such as tofu and soy milk contain compounds called isoflavones, which can help lower LDL cholesterol.

Olive oil:

Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fats, which can help lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol.

Some useful websites

Website NameURLDescription
World Heart Federationhttps://www.world-heart-federation.org/resources/risk-factors/cholesterol/Provides information on cholesterol, its impact on heart health, and steps you can take to manage your cholesterol levels from a global perspective.
World Health Organizationhttps://www.who.int/news-room/questions-and-answers/item/what-is-cholesterol-and-why-is-it-important-for-my-healthOffers a comprehensive overview of cholesterol, its impact on health, and ways to manage cholesterol levels.
European Society of Cardiologyhttps://www.escardio.org/Sub-specialty-communities/European-Association-of-Preventive-Cardiology-(EAPC)/Resources/Preventive-cardiology-tools/Cholesterol-guidanceProvides guidance on cholesterol management for healthcare professionals and patients, including information on lifestyle changes and medication options.
Heart and Stroke Foundation (Canada)https://www.heartandstroke.ca/heart/risk-and-prevention/condition-risk-factors/high-cholesterolOffers resources on understanding cholesterol and its impact on heart health, as well as tips for managing cholesterol through lifestyle changes and medication options.
National Health Service (UK)https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/high-cholesterol/Provides information on diagnosing and treating high blood cholesterol, as well as advice on preventing future complications.


Understanding your cholesterol test results is an essential step towards maintaining good heart health. By making lifestyle changes such as improving your diet, exercising regularly, quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and taking medication if necessary, you can improve your cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease and other health problems.

Remember, these changes don’t have to be drastic, and small steps can lead to big results. By incorporating heart-healthy foods onto your plate you can make a positive impact on your cholesterol levels and overall health.

I’ve shared what I am doing so its important to work with your doctor or healthcare provider to develop a personalized plan for improving your cholesterol levels based on your individual health status and medical history.

By taking control of your health, you can live your best life and enjoy all the benefits that come with good heart health.

Don’t wait until it’s too late to take control of your heart health!

Make an appointment with your doctor/healthcare provider today to get your cholesterol levels checked and discuss ways to improve them.

If you found this post helpful, be sure to share it with other dads who may benefit from this information because together, we can take steps towards better heart health and live our best lives!

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