- This fat-like substance is found in whole-milk dairy products, egg yolks and meat. The liver also produces cholesterol, which is necessary for certain cell functions. Cholesterol levels are measured by a simple blood test. High cholesterol levels are strongly linked with heart disease. A desirable total cholesterol level for adults without heart disease is less than 200 milligrams per deciliter of blood. Cholesterol travels in the blood in packages called lipoproteins. Two important ones are HDL, which is protective, and LDL, which is associated with increased cardiovascular risk. Medication can help control high cholesterol; dietary restrictions and exercise can also help to achieve a healthier ratio between HDLs and LDLs. Individuals with peripheral arterial disease (PAD) should aim for LDL cholesterol levels of less than 100, often less than 70 mg/dL, to avoid heart attack and stroke.