What does a total cholesterol level of 171 mean?
A total cholesterol level of 171 mg/dL is considered optimal. Optimal total cholesterol is associated with better health and a lower risk of heart disease.
Your total cholesterol is calculated by adding your LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, and 20% of triglyceride levels.
LDL, often referred to as “bad” cholesterol, accumulates in your blood vessels and increases your risk for heart disease. Ideally, LDL levels should be less than 100 mg/dL, but lower is better.
HDL is considered “good” cholesterol because it protects against heart disease by scavenging for LDL cholesterol and returning it to the liver for excretion. The ideal HDL level is >60 mg/dL, though >40 mg/dL for men and >50 mg/dL for women are still considered good.
Triglycerides are another type of fat (also included in a total cholesterol test) that can build up in the bloodstream and increase your risk of heart disease. Ideally, triglycerides should be <150 mg/dL.
How to maintain optimal total cholesterol levels
Maintaining an optimal total cholesterol level (<200 mg/dL) is good for your overall health and can lower your risk of developing heart disease in the future.
Cholesterol levels tend to increase as you get older, so it’s best to put heart-healthy habits into place now. Here are some things you can do to help keep your levels in the optimal range:
Fill up on fiber-rich foods like veggies, fruit, whole grains, and legumes, aiming to get 30-40g fiber each day.
Limit refined carbs and added sugars, like those found in soda, chips, candy, baked goods, sweetened yogurt, and ice cream.
Avoid trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils) and reduce saturated fat intake to < 10% total calories.
Eat small, fatty fish at least twice a week. Salmon, sardines, and trout are all great choices.
Get 30-60 minutes of physical activity most days of the week.
Incorporate plant sterols and stanols daily (2g) in the form of food or a supplement.
Lose weight if you are overweight or obese.
Quit smoking if you currently smoke.
Achieve and maintain good blood sugar control (HbA1c) if you have diabetes or prediabetes.