What do the cholesterol targets mean?

Cholesterol targets are the cholesterol levels that you need to reach in order to reduce your risk of developing heart disease and its complications (such as heart attacks and strokes). Based on your risk of developing heart disease, your doctor will recommend target levels of different types of cholesterol.

The most important cholesterol target is LDL-C (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol), which is the "bad cholesterol" that clogs your arteries and increases your risk of heart attacks and strokes. Regardless of your level of heart disease risk, the goal is to lower your LDL-C by at least 50%. Your doctor can determine what specific number that should be for you.

For people at moderate to high risk of developing heart disease, an "alternate" target is apoB (apolipoprotein B, a protein that is part of LDL-C and VLDL-C (very low-density lipoprotein cholesterol) and can cause inflammation in the blood vessels). The goal is to lower apoB to less than 0.80 g/L.

Once you have met your LDL-C goal, your doctor may suggest other "secondary" targets such as:

  • Total cholesterol to HDL-C ratio (also called your "ratio"): the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL-C (high-density lipoprotein, the "good cholesterol" that helps clean LDL-C out of your arteries). This number is calculated by dividing the level of total cholesterol by the level of HDL-C.
  • Non-HDL-cholesterol (non-HDL-C) measures all types of cholesterol other than HDL-C. It is equal to the total cholesterol (TC) minus the HDL-C. It is a good measure of how much harmful cholesterol a person has in their blood.
  • Triglycerides (TG) are not the same thing as cholesterol. They are another type of fat often found in the body. TG is tested at the same time as cholesterol. TG can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. TG can also lower the levels of HDL-C.
  • ApoB to ApoAI ratio: the ratio of apoB to apo AI (which is part of HDL-C). This number is calculated by dividing the level of apoB by the level of apoAI.

Cholesterol targets are used to guide your treatment and make sure that your treatment is doing enough to reduce your risk of developing heart disease and its complications.

With the proper treatment plan, you can meet your cholesterol targets. It's very important to use your medications exactly as prescribed so that you will be able to meet your targets. Read "How to reach your cholesterol targets" in this feature to learn more.

Ask your doctor what your cholesterol targets are, whether you are reaching them, and what you can do if you are not reaching your targets.

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