Your Cholesterol Test Results
Once you’ve had your test, what do the numbers mean?
For total cholesterol:
- 200 milligrams per deciliter or less is normal.
- 201 to 240 mg/dL is borderline.
- More than 240 mg/dL is high.
For HDL , more is better:
- 60 mg/dL or higher is good — it protects against heart disease.
- 40 to 59 mg/dL is OK.
- Less than 40 mg/dL is low, raising your chance of heart disease.
For LDL , lower is better:
- Less than 100 mg/dL is ideal.
- 100 to 129 mg/dL can be good, depending on your health.
- 130 to 159 mg/dL is borderline high.
- 160 to 189 mg/dL is high.
- 190 mg/dL or more is very high.
For triglycerides, lower is better:
- 150 mg/dL or less may be the goal your doctor recommends, though the American Heart Association suggests that a lower level is best for health.
- 151 to 200 mg/dL means youâre on your way to a higher risk for heart disease.
- More than 200 mg/dL means you have a higher risk of heart disease.
Your doctor will consider your overall likelihood of heart disease to set your personal LDL goal. For people who are at higher risk of heart disease or who already have it, your LDL should be less than 100 mg/dL.
If you have a moderately high chance of heart disease, an LDL less than 130 mg/dL is your target. If your risk of heart problems is fairly low, less than 160 mg/dL is probably fine.
Effects Of High Cholesterol Levels
The liver is the main processing centre for cholesterol and dietary fat. When we eat animal fats, the liver transports the fat, together with cholesterol in the form of lipoproteins, into our bloodstream.
Too much cholesterol circulating within LDL in our bloodstream leads to fatty deposits developing in the arteries. This causes the vessels to narrow and they can eventually become blocked. This can lead to heart disease and stroke.
Symptoms Of High Cholesterol
Often, there are no specific symptoms of high cholesterol. You could have high cholesterol and not know it.
If you have high cholesterol, your body may store the extra cholesterol in your arteries. These are blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body. A buildup of cholesterol in your arteries is known as plaque. Over time, plaque can become hard and make your arteries narrow. Large deposits of plaque can completely block an artery. Cholesterol plaques can also break apart, leading to formation of a blood clot that blocks the flow of blood.
A blocked artery to the heart can cause a heart attack. A blocked artery to your brain can cause a stroke.
Many people dont discover that they have high cholesterol until they suffer one of these life-threatening events. Some people find out through routine check-ups that include blood tests.
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How Do I Minimize My Risk Of Developing High Levels Of Bad Cholesterol
Health Canada advises that you maintain a healthy weight, get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day and stay away from cigarettes. It also recommends reducing the total fat in your diet by:
- Choosing leaner meats, poultry and fish.
- Reducing meat portions to the size of a deck of cards.
- Eating no more than one egg yolk a week.
- Choosing skim dairy products such as skim milk, cottage cheese with 1 per cent M.F. on the label and yogurt with less than 1 per cent M.F. on the label.
- Choosing cheeses with less than 15% M.F. on the label.
- Cooking with little or no fat.
- Using vegetable oils such as olive, canola, corn, sunflower, safflower, and peanut oil in small quantities.
- Avoiding store-bought baked goods such as croissants, muffins and doughnuts.
Health Canada also recommends you eat more vegetables, fruit, whole grains such as oats or barley, and legumes such as dried peas, dried beans and lentils.
What Is Ldl Cholesterol And Ldl Cholesterol Level And Range
Cholesterol is usually framed as bad but you may be amazed to know, that some cholesterol is good for the human body for regulating body functions properly.
The body uses cholesterol for Vitamin D making hormones and helping indigestion. Cholesterol is like a fatty substance easily found in the cells of our body.
The liver makes cholesterols for body activities but it is also available in some food items like Red meat, dairy products and other junk food which are very high in fat or oil. LDL cholesterol range and LDL cholesterol levels indicate the risk factors.
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What Are Recommended Cholesterol Levels By Age
Lipids are the by-products of common fat we eat. Lipids are classified as triglycerides , diglycerides , and steroids. Cholesterol is a steroid helping in the formation of cell membranes and hormones. Further, this cholesterol is classified as Low-Density Lipoprotein or LDL, and High-Density Lipoprotein or HDL also called good cholesterol. VLDL is another type of cholesterol secreted by the liver into your bloodstream. VLDL stands for Very-Low Density Lipoprotein. Lipoproteins are formed partly by proteins and partly fat. All three types of lipoproteins vary in the proportion that is made of cholesterol, protein, and triglycerides. VLDL has more of triglycerides, LDL more of cholesterol, and HDL more of protein. That is the reason, LDL and VLDL are together known as the bad cholesterol, they both have a significant role in the formation of plaque. Now, plaque is a thick solid sticky mass made of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other similar substances that get deposited in the arterial lumen interrupting the blood flow.
All in all, both types of bad cholesterol adversely affects your heart health either by getting deposited in the lumen of your arteries or under your skin and in the liver. If the lumen is completely choked, the organ may not get any blood supply. The plaque may burst and move to smaller arteries blocking them completely.
According to the American Heart Association, the following are the age-wise recommended cholesterol levels:
Cholesterol Levels For Men And Women
HDL levels differ for men and women
Women naturally have higher HDL cholesterol levels than men due to differences in the genes. Women should aim for an HDL cholesterol level above 1.2mmol/L while men should aim for above 1mmol/L.
Cholesterol levels can rise during pregnancy
During pregnancy, both cholesterol and triglyceride levels can significantly rise. We dont recommend getting a cholesterol test during pregnancy because your results wont be accurate. Our advice is to wait until at least 6-8 weeks after your baby is born or after you stop breastfeeding to get a cholesterol test. This means you dont need to worry unnecessarily. Find out more about pregnancy and blood fats.
Cholesterol levels rise during the menopause
Women may also find their cholesterol levels rise during the menopause.
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Are Home Cholesterol Testing Kits Accurate
The answer is yes if the tests are labeled CDC-certified. This means that the contents have been approved by the Cholesterol Reference Method Laboratory Network, a group that works with test makers, laboratories and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to make sure tests are accurate.
For home tests, you will still need to fast for 12 hours and to obtain blood for testing. Some kits come with packages for mailing to a lab for results. Other kits have a monitor so you can get the results at home. The cost of such home kits varies.
Another Type Of Fat Found In The Blood Mainly From The Food We Eat
Whats healthy? Less than 1.7 mmol/L ideally on a fasting sample, or less than 2.3 mmol/L on a non-fasting sample.
What should I do? Very high triglyceride levels can cause a painful condition called pancreatitis. People can have raised levels for many reasons, but the most common reasons are lifestyle-related:
- Being apple-shaped .
- Developing or having type 2 diabetes.
Excessive alcohol consumption.
You can keep your triglyceride levels low by losing weight, being more active and eating sensibly, especially by cutting back on alcohol, sugary foods and saturated fats, and eating more fruits, vegetables, pulses and wholegrains.
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Whats Considered High Cholesterol
High cholesterol generally means your total cholesterol is 200 mg/dL or higher. But providers use additional categories like borderline high and near optimal to break down your results. If your numbers are close to normal levels, they may be easier to manage through lifestyle and dietary changes.
High cholesterol levels by age chart
The chart below shows cholesterol levels that are higher than normal. All units are mg/dL.
Very high: 190 or higher
Cholesterol Levels For Children
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children should have total cholesterol readings of under 170 mg/dl. The borderline high range is 170199 mg/dl, and a reading of 200 mg/dl or over is high.
LDL cholesterol levels should be under 110 mg/dl. The borderline high range is 110129 mg/dl, and any reading over 130 mg/dl is high.
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Good And Bad Cholesterol
There’s only one kind of cholesterol but it is carried around the body by different carriers called lipoproteins, notably:
- Low density lipoprotein
- High density lipoprotein
In simple terms, cholesterol carried by LDLs is considered bad because when theres too much of it circulating in your blood it contributes to plaque build-up that clogs arteries and makes them less flexible . If you have high blood cholesterol your goal will be to reduce LDL levels in your blood.
On the other hand, cholesterol carried by HDLs is considered good because it carries cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where it is broken down and passed from the body. Any lifestyle changes or treatment for high blood cholesterol will aim to ensure HDL levels are increased or maintained at healthy levels.
When blood cholesterol tests are done, the level of triglycerides in your blood is also measured. Triglycerides are the most common type of fat that exists in food and in the body. When calories ingested in a meal are not used immediately by the body, they are converted to triglycerides and are transported to the fat cells to be stored. It is thought that elevated triglyceride levels may increase the risk of developing heart disease, particularly when associated with high LDL-cholesterol levels.
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. âWomen have higher HDL cholesterol from puberty on. Boys have more testosterone, which lowers HDL,âRobert 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 âgoodâ cholesterol than men. âTheoretically, this is why women live longer and tend to have heart attacks later in life ,â 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.
âItâs important to understand that, if HDL is high, itâs distributed in a form of cholesterol that weâre not concerned about,â he says. âIn fact, it may be protecting women from the risk of heart attack, stroke or death from cardiovascular disease.â
This is why understanding the difference between HDL and LDL is so important simply having high total cholesterol may not be an issue if itâs caused by elevated levels of good cholesterol.
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Your Total Cholesterol Figure Divided By The Hdl
Whats healthy? The lower this figure, the better. Ideally 4.5, while above 6 is considered high risk.
What should I do? This reading will help your GP work out whether your overall cholesterol levels are healthy, which in turn helps them calculate your risk of CVD â another reason why its important to have full cholesterol results, not just TC. It could be high if your TC, LDL-C and non-HDL cholesterol levels are too high, or if your HDL-C is too low, or a combination of both. Maintaining a healthy TC:HDL ratio long-term can help reduce your risk of CVD in future. You can do this by following the advice above.
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How Can I Reduce My Ldl And Total Cholesterol Levels
Eating a low-fat, heart-healthy diet is a good start. Try not to eat fatty cuts of beef and pork. Eat more chicken, turkey and fish. Drink fatfree milk instead of whole milk. Avoid other high-fat dairy foods like cheese, butter and ice cream. Avoid fried foods. Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.
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Why Is High Cholesterol A Problem
Too much cholesterol in the bloodstream can harden arteries and promote fatty deposits within these arteries, potentially leading to dangerous blockages and narrowing over time called atherosclerosis.
If the blood vessels leading to your heart become too clogged, blood supply to your heart is reduced, which can lead to symptoms such as angina . If the artery becomes completely blocked, it can lead to a heart attack and stroke, which can be life threatening.
In 2017, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported 43, 477 deaths in Australia from heart disease. This is approximately 30 per cent of all deaths in Australia, and most deaths are occurring in those aged 65 years and over.
However, heart disease takes years to develop, so you can take steps to reduce your risk.If you discover you have high cholesterol, have family members with high cholesterol, or are not sure if you’re at risk, it is advisable you seek your doctor’s advice.
Other risk factors for heart disease include increased age, ethnicity, family history, inactivity, smoking, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and obesity.If these risk factors are present in your life, it’s even more important to keep your blood cholesterol levels in check and seek your doctor’s advice.
can help you begin to assess your risk, but we strongly advise you discuss your risk with your GP as this tool does have limitations it doesn’t take your family history into account, for example.
What Should Your Results Include
As a minimum, you should be given your total cholesterol and HDL , then you can work out your ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol .
You might also have your triglycerides tested, these are another type of blood fat which are linked to heart disease.
This is sometimes written as ‘serum cholesterol’ or ‘TC’ and refers to your overall level of cholesterol.
Your non-HDL cholesterol is your total cholesterol minus your HDL cholesterol. Its all the ‘bad’ cholesterol added together, including your LDL cholesterol. Ideally it should be as low as possible.
Your HDL cholesterol helps clear the cholesterol out of your arteries, while your LDL cholesterol can clog them up. Your HDL cholesterol should ideally be high, around 1.4mmol/L, but our specialists believe that HDL levels higher than this might not give you any extra benefit.
You might be given a TC:HDL ratio, which is the ratio of HDL compared to the total cholesterol. If not, you can work it out from your HDL and total cholesterol numbers. This should be as low as possible. Above 6 is considered high.
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How Can I Lower My Ldl Level
There are two main ways to lower your LDL cholesterol:
- Therapeutic lifestyle changes . TLC includes three parts:
- Heart-healthy eating. A heart-healthy eating plan limits the amount of saturated and trans fats that you eat. Examples of eating plans that can lower your cholesterol include the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes diet and the DASH eating plan.
- Weight Management. If you are overweight, losing weight can help lower your LDL cholesterol.
- Physical Activity. Everyone should get regular physical activity .
- Drug Treatment. If lifestyle changes alone do not lower your cholesterol enough, you may also need to take medicines. There are several types of cholesterol-lowering drugs available, including statins. The medicines work in different ways and can have different side effects. Talk to your health care provider about which one is right for you. While you are taking medicines to lower your cholesterol, you still should continue with the lifestyle changes.
Some people with familial hypercholesterolemia may receive a treatment called lipoprotein apheresis. This treatment uses a filtering machine to remove LDL cholesterol from the blood. Then the machine returns the rest of the blood back to the person.
NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
How To Lower Your Cholesterol
If youve been told that you have high cholesterol or you just want to prevent it what can you do?
There are several ways to manage it, including:
Medication: Depending on your overall cardiovascular disease risk, you might be treated with a cholesterol-lowering medication, such as a statin. The decision to use a statin is based on a womans overall risk for heart attack and stroke including all these factors and the LDL cholesterol value.
If you already have vascular disease or evidence of atherosclerosis, or if you are at high risk for cardiovascular disease, a statin for prevention is strongly recommended because this treats the plaque in the arteries, and lowers LDL cholesterol, Michos says.
Diet and lifestyle:Diet and lifestyle are very important to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Even for women who are recommended to take cholesterol-lowering medications, a healthy lifestyle helps these drugs work better, says Michos.
Heres how to maintain a lifestyle that promotes healthy cholesterol levels:
Add these to your shopping list:
- Fatty fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines and albacore tuna
- Nuts, including walnuts, pecans, almonds and hazelnuts
- Olive oil to drizzle lightly over your salads and vegetables
While nobody wants to have high cholesterol, there are plenty of ways to keep it in check. With regular checkups and attention to what you eat, its possible to manage your cholesterol and blood fats to keep your heart healthy, says Michos.
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