Does Cholesterol Really Count?

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Is 200 the Magic Number?

Not necessarily. To keep the low-cholesterol message simple, that's the number doctors have focused on for the past decade: Keep your total cholesterol level -- the sum of your "good" HDL and "bad" LDL cholesterols and 20 percent of your triglycerides (the third blood fat) -- below 200 and you're in the clear, we've been told. But the truth is a lot more nuanced. If total cholesterol is below 200 because you have very low HDLs, you're not out of danger. And if it's slightly above 200 because your HDLs are high, you may be okay. Protecting yourself begins with knowing your levels of all three blood fats and what scores you need for a healthy heart.

Continued on page 3:  The Ideal Numbers for Women


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