Harvard Heart Letter

High marks for below-average cholesterol

For the best protection against clogged arteries and heart disease, average cholesterol no longer makes the grade — lower is better.

Once upon a time, average was thought to be perfectly okay when it came to cholesterol levels. Although that attitude still lingers, below average — in some cases, way below average — is the new target.

In the United States, the average total cholesterol is 203 milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL) while low-density lipoprotein (LDL, the bad cholesterol) averages 123 mg/dL. For someone without heart disease, that total cholesterol is officially on the cusp of desirable, while an LDL in the 120s is comfortably in the okay range.

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