In the old days, it was thought that your total cholesterol was a magic number that should be high or low. In modern times, we realize that your total cholesterol includes both good and bad types of cholesterol.
The actual breakdown of your total cholesterol number is:
LDL + HDL + (Triglycerides / 5)
So let's say that your HDL, or good cholesterol, was incredibly high, while your LDL and Triglycerides were both really low. You could end up with a really high total cholesterol, even though you were really healthy. In the old "only total cholesterol numbers matter" your doctor would make you lower your cholesterol, even though it meant lowering your good cholesterol numbers! In modern times we understand that we want a low LDL cholesterol number. The overall total doesn't really matter.
Of course it is quite unlikely that you'll have a super high HDL and have a super low LDL number, but it shows why it's important to know the component values, and not just the main total cholesterol value.
For that reason, the below guidelines from the US government are general guidelines, but can't be overly functional without delving into what the component values are. These values assume that a high total cholesterol is probably caused by a high LDL value.
< 200 mg/dL = best
200 - 239 mg/dL = borderline to high
240 + mg/dL = high
Rather than trying to figure out how to lower your total cholesterol, look into ways to raise your HDL (good) cholesterol and to lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglyceride levels. That is what is important in cholesterol management.
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Total Cholesterol Information
HDL Cholesterol Information
LDL Cholesterol Information
Triglyceride Cholesterol Information