Heart attack despite low cholesterol?

Ask the doctor

Q I have a relative who had a total cholesterol value of 155, yet he still had a heart attack with 90% blockage in one artery. How could that happen?

A I understand your confusion, considering how doctors have long focused on the importance of having an optimal total cholesterol level (less than 200 milligrams per deciliter or mg/dL) as a way to lower the chance of having a heart attack. It's actually the harmful LDL cholesterol value that's most important in terms of this risk. However, a person with a total cholesterol level of 155 mg/dL probably has an LDL level under 100 mg/dL, which is currently considered a reasonable target for avoiding heart disease.

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