Why Cholesterol Matters For Women
Ah, cholesterol and triglycerides. We hear about them all the time. Even foods that might seem good for you on the surface, like fruit-filled yogurt or bran muffins, can contribute to abnormal levels if they contain too much saturated fat or refined sugar, says Erin Michos, M.D., associate director of preventive cardiology at the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease.
Whats more, many women are at risk for high cholesterol and dont realize it. Approximately 45 percent of women over the age of 20 have a total cholesterol of 200 mg/dl and above, which is considered elevated but a survey by the American Heart Association found that 76 percent of women say they dont even know what their cholesterol values are, Michos says.
Scarier still: Triglycerides, a type of blood fat typically measured alongside cholesterol, are even more risky in women compared with men. This is a problem because womens cholesterol levels can fluctuate quite a bit after menopause and tend to increase with age, putting us at greater risk of heart disease and stroke. Knowing your cholesterol numbers and how to control them is a big step toward staying healthy.
How Do You Prepare For A Cholesterol Test
In most cases, youll need to fast for nine to 12 hours before the test. Make sure you tell the person drawing your blood how long it has been since you ate or drank anything that wasnt water.
There are some cases when a cholesterol test is done without fasting. This is true for tests done at health screenings and may be true for people younger than 20 or for people who are unable to fast.
Some medical societies believe that fasting is not necessary to get a true picture of lipid levels in the blood, while other associations stand by the belief that fasting gives a better idea of a persons heart disease risk. You should be clear on whether or not you need to fast, and for how long, before you go for the blood test.
You Dont Need To Avoid Eggs And Seafood
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 Is The Total Cholesterol Or Blood Cholesterol Test Done
A blood test is a routine test. A phlebotomist is a person whose job 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.
What Are The Normal Cholesterol Levels For Men And Women
A cholesterol test generally determines 4 distinct numbers: Total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides. Cholesterol being fat, it is not soluble in water. So it cannot circulate freely in the blood. But, the fact is that nature has devised a way to make water-soluble cholesterol, and transport it through the blood. This is by lipoproteins. The LDL or Low-density lipoprotein and the HDL or high-density lipoprotein are the 2 fundamental cholesterol carriers but to make things simpler, they are considered as cholesterol types. In addition, the lipid panel appraises the triglycerides . They have an impact on health in the same manners as cholesterol. At last, the total cholesterol is integrated as well in the results. Apart from these 4 general lipid levels, your doctor may want to access your very low-density lipoprotein or VLDL that is considered bad when high.
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Causes Of Changing Cholesterol Levels
Your cholesterol levels will change as you age, most likely increasing. There are a number of causes for changing cholesterol levels. They include:
If you eat foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol, it will make your total cholesterol level rise. The saturated fat is the main cause. This type of fat comes mainly from animal food products. You can find it in meat, dairy products, chocolate, baked goods, deep-fried foods, and processed foods. These foods make up a typical American diet, and consuming a lot of these foods is cautioned against.
Weight and physical activity
If you are overweight, your risk for heart disease increases and so do your cholesterol levels. Not being physically active also contributes to a risk for heart disease and high cholesterol levels. Exercising daily and losing weight can help lower your bad cholesterol, LDL, and increase your good cholesterol, HDL.
Smoking can lower your good cholesterol, HDL, making it harder for your body to remove cholesterol from your arteries.
Age and gender
As you age, your total cholesterol levels increase. Women have lower total cholesterol levels than men of the same age. But when a woman goes through menopause, her bad cholesterol, LDL, tends to rise.
What Types Of Cholesterol Are There
There are two different types of cholesterol including:
- “Bad Cholesterol” which carry cholesterol particles throughout your body. LDL cholesterol is bad because it builds up in the walls of your arteries, making them hard and narrow which can increase the risk of a heart attack.
- “Good Cholesterol” which picks up excess cholesterol and takes it back to the liver. Having high HDL is linked to lower risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
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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.
Cholesterol Levels Chart For Adults
The American Heart Association recommends that people who are 20 or older have their cholesterol checked every four to six years.
And according to the US National Library of Medicine, men aged 45 to 65 and women aged 55 to 65 should have it every one to two years. That’s because as you age, you’re at an increased risk of high cholesterol.
It’s important to note that healthy cholesterol levels can look different for everyone, depending on other lifestyle factors, medical history, and genetics. But this chart can help give you some general guidelines:
If you have coronary artery disease or diabetes, your doctor will want to see lower LDL cholesterol levels ideally, below 70 mg/dL because you’re already at an increased risk of heart attack and stroke due the buildup of cholesterol in your arteries.
You’ll also need your cholesterol tested more regularly if you have cardiovascular disease or may be at risk.
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How Often Should I Get A Cholesterol Test
When and how often you should get a cholesterol test depends on your age, risk factors, and family history. The general recommendations are:
For people who are age 19 or younger::
- The first test should be between ages 9 to 11
- Children should have the test again every 5 years
- Some children may have this test starting at age 2 if there is a family history of high blood cholesterol, heart attack, or stroke
For people who are age 20 or older::
- Younger adults should have the test every 5 years
- Men ages 45 to 65 and women ages 55 to 65 should have it every 1 to 2 years
What Affects Cholesterol Levels
There are a variety of factors that can affect cholesterol levels. Some risk factors are within your control, while others are not:
- Genetics: These factors include familial hypercholesterolemia and a family history of heart disease.
- Sex: Males often have higher levels of LDL. After menopause, a woman’s LDL levels can also increase.
- Weight: People who are overweight or obese are at increased risk of having high cholesterol.
- Sedentary lifestyle: Lack of physical activity can increase the risk of overweight and obesity and, in turn, increase cholesterol levels.
- Diet: Overall diet quality can affect cholesterol in a negative way, including eating too many saturated and trans fats and not enough fiber.
- Age: Your body’s ability to clear cholesterol can be impacted as you age.
- Race and ethnicity: There are different rates of high cholesterol based on race/ethnicity and sex, with the highest rates among males in Hispanics and the highest rates among females in non-Hispanic Whites.
- Smoking: Smoking can increase your bad cholesterol and lower your good cholesterol.
- Other medical conditions: Having a previous history of high cholesterol, heart disease, or diabetes can increase your risk of developing high cholesterol.
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Can You Get Rid Of Cholesterol Deposits
Researchers are working on ways to eliminate plaque from coronary arteries. One method that has been proposed involves using combinations of medicines in healthy people aged 25 to 55 years. It is suggested that getting the levels of cholesterol down very low will allow arteries to clear up and heal up.
Several researchers believe that the way to reverse heart disease and prevent it in the first place is found in a whole-food, plant-based diet. Studies have been done that have shown that limiting nutrition to whole foods that are plant-based have been successful in reducing blood cholesterol and even, in some cases, lessening plaque buildup.
What Happens When You Have High Cholesterol
When you eat too many foods that are high in cholesterol, saturated fats, and trans fats, they can increase your risk of developing high cholesterol.
Moreover, living with obesity also increases your risk.
Some of the other lifestyle factors that can contribute to this are inactivity and smoking.
Genetics can also affect your chances of developing high cholesterol. Certain genes that come from your parents instruct your body on how to process cholesterol and fats.
Therefore, if you have high cholesterol then you set also at a greater risk of having it as well.
However, in rare cases, high cholesterol is due to familial hypercholesterolemia that is a genetic disorder preventing your body from removing LDL.
You may also be at a higher risk of developing high cholesterol if you are:
- living with obesity
- family history of high cholesterol
- have diseases like diabetes, kidney disease, or hypothyroidism
It is important to note that individuals of all ages, genders, and ethnicities can have high cholesterol.
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Cholesterol Levels For Children
By comparison, acceptable levels of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in children are different.
- An acceptable range of total cholesterol for a child is less than 170 mg/dL. Borderline high total cholesterol for a child ranges from 170 to 199 mg/dL. Any reading of total cholesterol over 200 in a child is too high.
- A childs LDL cholesterol levels should also be lower than an adults. The optimal range of LDL cholesterol for a child is less than 110 mg/dL. Borderline high is from 110 to 129 mg/dL while high is over 130 mg/dL.
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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Whats Your Cholesterol Level Anyway
A standard lipid blood test usually measures the concentration of total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides levels. The LDL-cholesterol level is typically estimated from these numbers using a well-established formula that has been more recently revised and improved by researchers at Johns Hopkins.
So what are your target numbers? According to Michos, an ideal LDL cholesterol level should be less than 70 mg/dl, and a womans HDL cholesterol level ideally should be close to 50 mg/dl. Triglycerides should be less than 150 mg/dl. As Michos notes, total cholesterol levels well below 200 mg/dl are best.
Your Test Results: A Preview
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.
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Plant Sterols Can Lower Cholesterol Levels
Plant sterols are found naturally in plant foods including sunflower and canola seeds, vegetable oils and in nuts, legumes, cereals, fruit and vegetables. Some margarine and milks have concentrated plant sterols added to them. Margarines enriched with plant sterolslower LDL cholesterol in most people if the correct amount is eaten .
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.
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Lifestyle Tips To Cut Cholesterol
Changing some of your lifestyle habits may also help to reduce your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Suggestions include:
- Cease alcohol consumption or reduce your alcohol intake to no more than one or two drinks a day. Avoid binge drinking. This may help lower your triglyceride levels.
- Dont smoke. Smoking increases the ability of LDL cholesterol to get into artery cells and cause damage.
- Exercise regularly . Exercise increases HDL levels while reducing LDL and triglyceride levels in the body.
- Lose any excess body fat. Being overweight may contribute to raised blood triglyceride and LDL levels.
- Control your blood sugar levels if you have diabetes. High blood sugars are linked to an increased risk of atherosclerosis , heart attacks and strokes.
What Is The Average Cholesterol For A 56
Your blood naturally contains two types of cholesterol, a good kind called HDL and a potentially harmful type called LDL. Cholesterol is needed for certain bodily functions, but it causes problems if your levels get too high. Adults have recommended average cholesterol levels, and you face an elevated risk of health issues if you have a blood test that reveals an elevated reading for your total or LDL cholesterol.
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