NANETTE K. WENGER, MD, FACC: Patients often ask, "What should my cholesterol be?" And really, the target value for your bad cholesterol, the LDL, depends on who you are and what your diseases are, because if you’re a high-risk patient, if you have documented coronary disease, if you've had a bypass, if you've had an angioplasty, if you have disease of your peripheral arteries, if you're a diabetic and remember, a diabetic is a high-risk patient. A diabetic woman has the same risk of having a heart attack as a woman who's already had a heart attack, or if you have chronic kidney disease, you're a high-risk patient, and your bad cholesterol, the LDL, should be at least lower than 100, and some of the newer recommendations are lower than 70.
SPENCER B. KING, MD, MACC: Patients tend to benefit with those lower LDL cholesterol numbers. Often it's asked, is there a cholesterol number that is too low? Some people feel that when you go below 40 for the LDL cholesterol that maybe that's a little excessive.
NANETTE K. WENGER, MD, FACC: Now, if you're at intermediate risk, if you have a number of risk factors for heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, metabolic syndrome, physical inactivity, cigarette smoking, probably the goal for your cholesterol should be somewhere between 100 and 130 for the bad cholesterol, the LDL. And if you have just a few risk factors, perhaps 130 to 160 is reasonable. But more and more, the research studies are showing that lower is better.