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What Level of Cholesterol Is Too Low?

low cholesterol
Can your cholesterol be too low? While less common, low cholesterol can affect your health

Most of us associate cholesterol problems with high cholesterol, which we know can cause high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.

But is it possible for your cholesterol to be too low? Yes. While less common, low cholesterol can affect your health as well.

Cholesterol levels that are considered too low:

  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol: lower than 40 mg/dL
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol: lower than 40 mg/dL

Why is cholesterol important for your body?

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy type of fat that can be found in your blood, and is necessary for your body to maintain the structure and fluidity of cell membranes. It’s also responsible for synthesizing sex hormones, vitamin D, and bile, which your body needs for digestion.

Types of cholesterol

Cholesterol is divided into different types based on the relative proportions of fats and protein in lipoproteins.

  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol
  • Total cholesterol
  • Non-HDL cholesterol (total cholesterol minus HDL cholesterol)
  • Very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol

Good vs. bad cholesterol

  • HDL cholesterol is called “good” cholesterol because it absorbs cholesterol and carries it back to the liver, thereby reducing your risk of heart diseases and stroke.
  • LDL cholesterol is considered “bad” because increased levels can narrow your arteries and cause blockages, increasing the risk of heart diseases and stroke.

What are the dangers of low cholesterol?

Although the emphasis is generally on reducing cholesterol levels, cholesterol levels that are too low may also be problematic, although research is still inconclusive.

What causes low LDL cholesterol levels?

Low LDL cholesterol levels may be caused by genetic factors (inherited diseases) or acquired factors (diseases, medications):


  • Abetalipoproteinemia
  • Hypobetalipoproteinemia
  • Familial combined hypolipidemia
  • Anderson’s disease (chylomicron retention disease)


What causes low HDL cholesterol levels?

Low HDL cholesterol levels may be caused by:

  • Genetic factors (such as hypoalphalipoproteinemia)
  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Sedentary lifestyle or lack of physical activity
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Diet low in fruits and vegetables and high in processed, sugary, and fatty foods

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