Harvard Heart Letter

Targets for LDL (bad) cholesterol

The latest guidelines on cholesterol, from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's National Cholesterol Education Program, recommends these LDL targets:

Aim for 70 mg/dL or lower if this describes you:

  • You have been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease — meaning you have narrowed or partially blocked arteries in your heart, neck, legs, or elsewhere; or have chest pain (angina); or had a heart attack, stroke, or mini-stroke in the past; or have undergone bypass surgery or angioplasty — and one or more of the following also applies to you:

  • You have diabetes or kidney disease.

  • You smoke, your blood pressure isn't in the healthy range (below 130/85), or you have other uncontrolled risk factors for heart disease.

  • You have several elements of the metabolic syndrome: a large waist (over 40 inches for men or 35 inches for women), triglyceride level above 150 mg/dL, low HDL (under 40 mg/dL for men or 50 mg/dL for women), high blood pressure (above 130/85), and high blood sugar (above 110 mg/dL) after a fast.

  • You have recently had a heart attack or been hospitalized for unstable angina.

Aim for 100 mg/dL or lower if just one of the following applies to you:

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