Know your numbers


Most people with high cholesterol feel perfectly healthy, there are usually no warning signs, which is why high cholesterol is often called a “silent killer”. The only way to find out is to have a blood test. For an accurate result, fast from food and liquids for at least 8 hours before the test. If a total cholesterol level is high, it is important to know what type of cholesterol is high.

What should my cholesterol reading be?

For most healthy people normal cholesterol levels are:

  • Total cholesterol LESS than 5 mmol/L
  • LDL cholesterol level LESS than 3 mmol/L
  • HDL cholesterol levels MORE than 1.2 mmol/L for women or 1.0 mmol/L for men
  • Fasting triglyceride levels LESS than 1.7 mmol/L

People who are at a higher than normal risk for cardiovascular events may have stricter individual targets as advised by their doctor or specialist. This includes people who have:

  • Existing heart disease, previous strokes or heart attacks, peripheral vascular disease
  • Diabetes, kidney disease and other medical conditions that increase the risk of heart disease
  • Familial hypercholesterolaemia (inherited high cholesterol)

How often should cholesterol be tested?

All adults should have a fasting lipogram at least once in young adulthood (from age of 20). If cholesterol levels are normal, the test should be repeated again in a few years. People with diabetes, kidney disease or who are overweight should have their cholesterol levels monitored frequently by their doctor.

If ‘bad’ cholesterol levels are high or someone is at a high risk of heart disease, cholesterol levels should be checked every six months. Children don’t need to have their levels tested unless they have a family history.