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What Is A Healthy Cholesterol Level

Why Is Cholesterol Needed By The Body

What is a Healthy Cholesterol Level?

Overview

With all of the bad publicity cholesterol gets, people are often surprised to learn that its actually necessary for our existence.

Whats also surprising is that our bodies produce cholesterol naturally. But cholesterol isnt all good, nor is it all bad its a complex topic and one worth knowing more about.

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Can Children Have High Cholesterol

Unfortunately, children can have high or unhealthy cholesterol levels. In fact, in the United States, an estimated 50 percent of children and adolescents ages 6 to 19 have cholesterol levels that are not ideal, while 25 percent are in the high range clinically.

Genetic factors and obesity may cause unhealthy cholesterol levels in children, says Dr. Fleg.

A rare genetic condition called familial hypercholesterolemia is the most common inherited cardiovascular condition. It leads to very high cholesterol levels beginning at a young age.

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What Are Cholesterol Levels

Cholesterol circulating in the blood is carried by special particles called lipoproteins. The two major cholesterol-carrying lipoproteins are low-density lipoprotein and high-density lipoprotein :

  • LDL cholesterol is often referred to as “bad” cholesterol because too much of it can build up in your arteries and form plaques, which increases the risk of heart disease .
  • HDL cholesterol is often referred to as “good” cholesterol as it carries cholesterol to the liver to be broken down and excreted.

Since your total cholesterol is a combination of your LDL cholesterol and your HDL cholesterol, ideally you want to keep your LDL levels low and your HDL levels high. There are many factors that can influence your cholesterol, including, diet, exercise, weight, genetics, and other health conditions.

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Hdl Cholesterol: ‘good’ Cholesterol

Not all cholesterol is bad. High-density lipoprotein cholesterol is considered “good” cholesterol because it actually works to keep the LDL, or “bad” cholesterol from building up in your arteries. The higher the HDL, the better. HDL levels of 60 mg/dL and higher can help reduce your risk for heart disease. Conversely, HDL levels of 40 mg/dL and lower are considered a high risk-factor for developing heart disease.

What Affects My Cholesterol Levels

Stay Healthy

A variety of things can affect cholesterol levels. These are some things you can do to lower your cholesterol levels:

  • Diet. Saturated fat and cholesterol in the food you eat make your blood cholesterol level rise. Saturated fat is the main problem, but cholesterol in foods also matters. Reducing the amount of saturated fat in your diet helps lower your blood cholesterol level. Foods that have high levels of saturated fats include some meats, dairy products, chocolate, baked goods, and deep-fried and processed foods.
  • Weight. Being overweight is a risk factor for heart disease. It also tends to increase your cholesterol. Losing weight can help lower your LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. It also raises your HDL cholesterol level.
  • Physical Activity. Not being physically active is a risk factor for heart disease. Regular physical activity can help lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol levels. It also helps you lose weight. You should try to be physically active for 30 minutes on most, if not all, days.
  • Smoking.Cigarette smoking lowers your HDL cholesterol. HDL helps to remove bad cholesterol from your arteries. So a lower HDL can contribute to a higher level of bad cholesterol.

Things outside of your control that can also affect cholesterol levels include:

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Cholesterol Control: Chicken Vs Beef

Chicken and beef are both staples of many diet, and they can be prepared and seasoned in thousands of different ways.

Unfortunately, these common animal proteins are also sources of the type of fat that can elevate your risk for high cholesterol, heart disease, and cardiovascular problems.

LDL cholesterol contributes to plaque that can clog and narrow your arteries, which can break off as clots. This narrowing and these clots can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Since your body produces all of the LDL cholesterol it needs, eating foods that are high in saturated fats, like fatty meats, can increase the amount of LDL cholesterol that your body makes.

But that in no way means fried chicken with the skin on is a better choice than a grilled sirloin steak at least if youre talking about heart health.

What’s Considered As Normal Cholesterol Levels

Many factors influence what your personal cholesterol or lipid targets should be, and so cholesterol tests should be interpreted in the context of your personal risk.

Your doctor can help you understand your results and guide you on strategies to not only lower your cholesterol but lower your risk of heart disease.

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Who Should Have A Cholesterol Test

Anyone can have their blood cholesterol level tested, but its particularly important for people that are over 40 years old, have high blood pressure, are overweight, or have a family history of coronary heart disease.

Adults aged between 4074 years, living in England are eligible for a free NHS Health Check which includes a blood cholesterol check. If you have a history of heart disease in the family or youre concerned you have high cholesterol, speak with your doctor who will be able to offer some advice.

Is Dietary Cholesterol Harmful

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Research has shown that dietary cholesterol does not significantly impact cholesterol levels in your body, and data from population studies does not support an association between dietary cholesterol and heart disease in the general population .

Though dietary cholesterol can slightly impact cholesterol levels, this isnt an issue for most people.

In fact, two-thirds of the worlds population experience little or no increase in cholesterol levels after eating cholesterol-rich foods even in large amounts .

A small number of people are considered cholesterol non-compensators or hyper-responders and appear to be more vulnerable to high-cholesterol foods.

However, hyper-responders are thought to recycle extra cholesterol back to the liver for excretion .

Dietary cholesterol has also been shown to beneficially affect the LDL-to-HDL ratio, which is considered the best indicator of heart disease risk .

While research shows that its unnecessary for most people to avoid dietary cholesterol, keep in mind that not all cholesterol-containing foods are healthy.

Here are 7 healthy high-cholesterol foods and 4 to avoid.

Here are 7 high-cholesterol foods that are incredibly nutritious.

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Cholesterol Levels Chart For Children

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the US National Library of Medicine, heres what cholesterol levels should look like for children under 19:

Some children are genetically predisposed to high cholesterol because of a condition called familial hypercholesterolemia . The most effective way to diagnose FH is to get your child proper genetic testing from a specialist between the ages of 2 and 10, says Mohamed Al-Kazaz, MD, a cardiologist at Mount Sinai Hospital.

A child is also more likely to have high cholesterol if they have obesity, diabetes, liver or kidney disease, or an underactive thyroid, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

How Lifelong Cholesterol Levels Can Harm Or Help Your Heart

> > Nicholas Bakalar, The New York Times

  • The longer you have high levels of bad LDL cholesterol, the greater your risk of a heart attack.

LDL, or bad cholesterol, is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease. Now a new study suggests that, like smoking, it has a cumulative effect over a lifetime: The longer a person has high LDL, the greater their risk of suffering a heart attack or cardiac arrest.

Coronary heart disease, also known as hardening of the arteries, is the leading cause of death in the United States. It is caused by a buildup of plaque in the arteries that narrows the vessels and blocks the flow of oxygenated blood to the heart. Often, people have no symptoms and remain unaware they have the disease for years until they develop chest pain or suffer a catastrophic event like a heart attack.

Using data from four large prospective health studies, researchers calculated LDL levels over time in 18,288 people who had multiple LDL tests taken at different ages. They calculated their cumulative exposure to LDL and followed their health for an average of 16 years. The study is in JAMA Cardiology.

The researchers found that the longer a person had high levels of LDL no matter what their LDL level is in young adulthood or middle age the greater the risk for coronary heart disease. Compared with those in the lowest quarter for cumulative exposure, those in the highest had a 57% increased risk.

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Cholesterol Levels In Men

Younger men tend to have higher total cholesterol numbers than women. This changes after women go through menopause, which tends to raise womens cholesterol levels. In general, men and women have very similar target cholesterol levels. The one difference: men have a slightly lower HDL target of 40 mg/dl.

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You Dont Need To Avoid Eggs And Seafood

Proper Cholesterol Levels

Some foods are high in cholesterol but are fine to eat in moderation, as long as your overall diet is low in saturated fats. For example:

  • Egg yolks a single egg yolk contains 200250 mg of cholesterol, which is almost the uppermost recommended daily intake . However, reducing egg intake is probably not important for healthy people with normal blood cholesterol levels.
  • Seafood prawns and seafood contain some cholesterol, but they are low in saturated fat and also contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Seafood is a healthy food and should not be avoided just because it contains cholesterol. However, avoid fried and battered seafood.

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How To Manage Your Cholesterol Levels

If you have high cholesterol as an adult or child there are many ways to lower your cholesterol and get your levels under control.

Essentially, you’ll want to take steps to lower your LDL and triglyceride levels while raising your HDL levels, says Steven Reisman, MD, a cardiologist and director of the New York Cardiac Diagnostic Center. Here’s how to do it:

Smoking And High Cholesterol

Smoking is a leading cause of high cholesterol and triggers many problems that contribute to heart disease. Smoking decreases the level of HDL cholesterol and increases the level of triglycerides in the blood. It promotes plaque buildup on the walls of the arteries and leads to the formation of blood clots and inflammation.

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Do You Need To Lower Your Cholesterol And Triglycerides

If you have high cholesterol, high triglycerides or an unhealthy balance of blood fats, your doctor will probably recommend bringing these levels down with lifestyle changes and sometimes treatments.

Your doctor should look at your results in relation to any other risk factors for heart disease you may have such as high blood pressure, being overweight or smoking, as well as other health conditions such as diabetes.

Your Test Results: A Preview

What Are Normal Cholesterol Levels, Triglyceride Levels & Healthy Cholesterol Ratios?

Your test results will show your cholesterol levels in milligrams per deciliter of blood . Your total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol are among numerous factors your doctor can use to predict your lifetime or 10-year risk for a heart attack or stroke. Your doctor will also consider other risk factors, such as age, family history, smoking status, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Lipid profile or lipid panel is a blood test that will give you results for your HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and total blood cholesterol.

Watch an animation about cholesterol score.

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Why Do I Need A Cholesterol Test

You will get a free NHS cholesterol test if you have a number of risk factors for high cholesterol including if youre over 40, have coronary heart disease or diabetes, have had a stroke or mini stroke, or have a family history of cardiovascular disease or a cholesterol-related condition.

Understanding your cholesterol levels

We hear a lot about the dangers of high cholesterol, but unless you have a blood test, you have …

Why Cholesterol Levels Differ In Men And Women

Healthy cholesterol levels are the same for boys and girls through childhood. But this changes when puberty hits. Women have higher HDL cholesterol from puberty on. Boys have more testosterone, which lowers HDL,Robert Eckel, MD, professor of medicine, emeritus, at the University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus, former president of the American Heart Association and president of the American Diabetes Association, tells LIVESTRONG.com.

Essentially, after puberty, women tend to have higher levels of good cholesterol than men. Theoretically, this is why women live longer and tend to have heart attacks later in life , Dr. Eckel says.

Pregnant women or older women taking hormone-replacement therapy to manage menopausal symptoms tend to have higher average cholesterol, Dr. Eckel says. But this increase is actually caused by HDL, which can be quite high for these groups.

Its important to understand that, if HDL is high, its distributed in a form of cholesterol that were not concerned about, he says. In fact, it may be protecting women from the risk of heart attack, stroke or death from cardiovascular disease.

This is why understanding the difference between HDL and LDL is so important simply having high total cholesterol may not be an issue if its caused by elevated levels of good cholesterol.

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Cholesterol Levels For Adults

  • Total cholesterol levels less than 200 milligrams per deciliter are considered desirable for adults. A reading between 200 and 239 mg/dL is considered borderline high and a reading of 240 mg/dL and above is considered high.
  • LDL cholesterol levels should be less than 100 mg/dL. Levels of 100 to 129 mg/dL are acceptable for people with no health issues but may be of more concern for those with heart disease or heart disease risk factors. A reading of 130 to 159 mg/dL is borderline high and 160 to 189 mg/dL is high. A reading of 190 mg/dL or higher is considered very high.
  • HDL levels should be kept higher. A reading of less than 40 mg/dL is considered a major risk factor for heart disease. A reading from 41 mg/dL to 59 mg/dL is considered borderline low. The optimal reading for HDL levels is of 60 mg/dL or higher.

Cholesterol Testing In Children

A Guide to Healthy Cholesterol

The American Heart Association recommends all children have their cholesterol first tested between ages 9 and 11 years old. Children with a family history of high cholesterol, diabetes, or obesity should get their cholesterol first tested between ages 2 and 8 years old, says Roxana Ehsani, a registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Kids with a strong family history or very high risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and chronic kidney disease should also have their cholesterol levels checked as early as 2 years of age, says Jerome L. Fleg, MD, medical officer in the division of cardiovascular sciences at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

After that, children are generally tested again between ages 17 and 21, according to the CDC.

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How Often Should You Get Your Cholesterol Checked

The AHA recommends that everyone age 20 or older have their cholesterol checked every four to six years. After age 40, your doctor should assess your risk and determine how often you need to be tested. The U.S. National Library of Medicine says men over 45 and women over 55 should be tested every one to two years.

Be sure to speak with your doctor about testing your cholesterol. High cholesterol is often caused by poor lifestyle choices, according to the Mayo Clinic. Your doctor will look at all your risk factors and determine how closely your cholesterol needs to be monitored.

How Is The Total Cholesterol Or Blood Cholesterol Test Done

A blood test is a routine test. A phlebotomist is the person whose job it is to draw blood. Blood is usually drawn from the vein in your arm. You will sit down and the phlebotomist will wrap a rubber band around your upper arm so that the vein in your elbow sticks out. Then they will use a needle to puncture the vein and remove blood. The blood is sent to the lab to be examined.

Youve probably been at health fairs where testing is offered. In that case, the person performing the test takes a drop of blood from your finger. The finger stick test uses a small blade to poke a hole in the tip of your finger to get the blood.

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Ways To Lower Cholesterol

Check your own cholesterol level and if its high, ask to have your kids levels checked.

Here are 5 ways to help keep your familys cholesterol in control:

  • Serve a heart-healthy diet, including:- vegetables, fruit, and whole grains- lean meats and poultry, fish, nuts, beans, and soy products- nonfat or low-fat milk and dairy products- healthy fats, like those found in fish, nuts, and vegetable oils
  • Limit drinks and foods with added sugars.
  • Read nutrition facts labels so that you can limit cholesterol and saturated fat and trans fat.
  • Encourage plenty of exercise. Exercise helps boost HDL levels in the blood and thats a good thing! Kids and teens should be physically active at least 60 minutes a day.
  • Help your kids keep a healthy weight.
  • Its important to make healthy living a family effort. The steps you take to improve your familys lifestyle will have a positive effect on your familys health now and far into the future.

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