What Factors Affect Cholesterol Levels
A variety of factors can affect your cholesterol levels. They include:
- Diet: Saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol in the food you eat increase cholesterol levels. Try to reduce the amount of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol in your diet. This will help lower your blood cholesterol level. Saturated and trans fat have the most impact on blood cholesterol.
- Weight: In addition to being a risk factor for heart disease, being overweight can also increase your triglycerides. Losing weight may help lower your triglyceride levels and raise your HDL.
- Exercise: Regular exercise can lower total cholesterol levels. Exercise has the most effect on lowering triglycerides and raising HDL. You should try to be physically active for 30 minutes on most days of the week.
- Age and sex: As we get older,cholesterol levels rise. Before menopause, women tend to have lower total cholesterol levels than men of the same age. After menopause, however, womens LDL levels tend to rise and HDL can drop.
- Heredity: Your genes partly determine how much cholesterol your body makes. High blood cholesterol can run in families.
Cholesterol Chart For Adults
According to the 2018 guidelines on the management of blood cholesterol published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology , these are the acceptable, borderline, and high measurements for adults.
All values are in mg/dL and are based on fasting measurements.
Your doctor may recommend a plan of treatment for high cholesterol that includes lifestyle modifications and potentially medication. This will vary based on factors like other medications you may be taking, your age, sex, and general health.
Here are some medications more commonly prescribed for high cholesterol:
Medications can also be used to treat contributing factors to cholesterol like triglycerides. These may be used in addition to some of the medications above.
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.
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The Risks Of High Cholesterol
Managing your cholesterol levels is important because high cholesterol can lead to a serious condition known as atherosclerosis. This can happen when high cholesterol is left untreated, causing plaque to build up in your arteries.
Over time, plaque build-up can narrow your arteries, limiting blood flow. This can even put you at risk for developing blood clots. Atherosclerosis also puts you at risk for life-threatening complications like a stroke, heart attack, chronic kidney disease, peripheral vascular disease, and angina.
What Do Your Cholesterol Levels Tell You
If you have high cholesterol, your doctor may recommend you take medication. This chart explains what your cholesterol levels tell you:
If your Total Cholesterol level is:
This is considered:
OK, but less than optimal
60 mg/dL and above
Good, helps lower risk
The numbers alone wont tell you or your doctor the entire story, however. If the only risk factor you have is high cholesterol, you may not need medication. Often high cholesterol can be lowered by exercise and a healthy diet. High cholesterol is only one of a number of risk factors for heart attack and stroke. Other risk factors include:
- Family history of high cholesterol or cardiovascular disease
- Inactive lifestyle
- High blood pressure
- Ageolder than 55 if youre a man, or older than 65 if youre a woman
- Poor general health
Inhibits production of triglycerides in the liver
Belching, fishy taste, increased infection risk
*Livalo became available on the market in mid-2010. Livalo is new and does not have the long track record of some of the other statins, so you may want to avoid this drug until more is known about it.
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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 vary.
There Are Two Main Types Of Cholesterol
The two main lipoproteins responsible for transporting cholesterol are low-density lipoprotein and high-density lipoprotein .
LDL cholesterol is whats known as bad cholesterol. Too much LDL cholesterol leads to fatty buildups that clog arteries atherosclerosis. Narrows arteries make it difficult for blood to travel through the body, and it makes your heart work harder to pump blood. Excess LDL cholesterol increases your risk for heart disease, heart attack, stroke, peripheral artery disease.
In general, you want lower levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol.
HDL cholesterol is commonly referred to as good cholesterol. Research shows a correlation between higher HDL levels and a lower risk for heart disease. High-density lipoproteins help carry LDL cholesterol through the blood and back to the liver. The liver then breaks down LDL cholesterol, allowing the body to remove it as waste.
In general, you want higher levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.
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What Are The Symptoms Of High Cholesterol
Lifestyle factors include:
- an unhealthy diet– eating too much saturated fat is thought to increase levels of LDL or bad cholesterol
- lack of exercise – this can also increase your levels of LDL
- obesity – being overweight often means you also have higher levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and a lower level of the good HDL.
- drinking too much alcohol
- smoking – if you smoke, a chemical in cigarettes called acrolein stops the good HDL from moving fatty deposits to your liver
- kidney disease
- transient ischaemic attack – or a mini stroke
- peripheral arterial disease
What Are Cholesterol Levels
- 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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Higher Cholesterol Ok If The Right Kind
“WHAT’S MY cholesterol, doc?” It’s a common question and important to know. But some cholesterol is good for your health and some is bad. Having too much bad cholesterol can be even more dangerous if combined with other illnesses such as diabetes.
“Bad” cholesterol is called LDL and “good” cholesterol is HDL . To remember which is which, you want to keep LDL low, and HDL high. Most of us have a lot more bad than good cholesterol, which is why we often hear that “lowering cholesterol” is a good thing.
Most research suggests that having less LDL and more HDL in your blood helps prevent clogged arteries. And clogged arteries can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
High LDL and low HDL can be caused by many things: poor diet, obesity, lack of physical activity, tobacco smoking, genetics, gender and age.
Foods that increase LDL are mostly from animal products such as meat, fats and milk. Lack of physical activity and tobacco smoke tend to lower HDL cholesterol. If your father suffered from clogged arteries before age 55, or your mother before age 65, your family may have a genetic predisposition toward high LDL cholesterol.
Women tend to have less LDL cholesterol than men until they are about age 65, then both genders are similar.
Talk to your doctor about when and how often you should check your cholesterol. If you have risk factors that cause high LDL and low HDL, as mentioned above, you should probably start getting checked about every five years at age 20.
Why Cholesterol Matters For Women
Erin Donnelly Michos, M.D., M.H.S.
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.
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What Is A Healthy Cholesterol Level
This table is a general guide for ideal cholesterol and triglyceride levels for healthy adults in the UK. If you have a condition such as heart disease or diabetes, your target levels may be lower your doctor will be able to tell you your individual targets.
|Above 6 is considered high risk – the lower this figure is the better||Above 6 is considered high risk – the lower this figure is the better|
Add These Foods To Lower Ldl Cholesterol
Different foods lower cholesterol in various ways. Some deliver soluble fiber, which binds cholesterol and its precursors in the digestive system and drags them out of the body before they get into circulation. Some give you polyunsaturated fats, which directly lower LDL. And some contain plant sterols and stanols, which block the body from absorbing cholesterol.
1. Oats. An easy first step to lowering your cholesterol is having a bowl of oatmeal or cold oat-based cereal like Cheerios for breakfast. It gives you 1 to 2 grams of soluble fiber. Add a banana or some strawberries for another half-gram. Current nutrition guidelines recommend getting 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day, with at least 5 to 10 grams coming from soluble fiber.
2. Barley and other whole grains. Like oats and oat bran, barley and other whole grains can help lower the risk of heart disease, mainly via the soluble fiber they deliver.
3. Beans. Beans are especially rich in soluble fiber. They also take a while for the body to digest, meaning you feel full for longer after a meal. That’s one reason beans are a useful food for folks trying to lose weight. With so many choices from navy and kidney beans to lentils, garbanzos, black-eyed peas, and beyond and so many ways to prepare them, beans are a very versatile food.
4. Eggplant and okra. These two low-calorie vegetables are good sources of soluble fiber.
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How To Measure Cholesterol Levels
To measure your cholesterol levels, your doctor will order a blood test. They may also order a lipid panel which provides information on your total cholesterol, LDL levels, HDL levels, VLDL levels and triglycerides, non-HDL cholesterol, and the ratio between cholesterol and HDL.
The test is simple. Your blood will be drawn and sent to a lab to be examined and your doctor will follow up with your results. Your doctor will also likely tell you to fast for the blood test to get accurate results. There are some cases where the test is done without fasting but your doctor will recommend what is best for you.
Making Sense Of Your Cholesterol Numbers
It’s important to know your cholesterol levels and what they mean so you can take action to protect your heart health.
Good cholesterol, bad cholesterol, high LDL, low HDL: Understanding your cholesterol levels can be confusing. Even though its complicated, learning how to make sense of your cholesterol numbers is important. It’s the key to knowing what steps you need to take to keep your heart healthy.
Unfortunately, high cholesterol has no warning signs. But if your levels of cholesterol a fat-like substance in the body are too high, that can seriously increase your risk of heart disease. Thats why certain blood tests are necessary to measure the amount of cholesterol in your blood. “The earlier we can address cholesterol issues, the more likely we are to prevent the development of heart disease,” says David Frid, MD, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic.
Cholesterol Tests and What They Mean
It’s recommended that all adults older than 20 have a fasting lipoprotein profile, a blood test performed after 9 to 12 hours of fasting, once every five years. The test provides the following breakdown of your cholesterol in milligrams per deciliter of blood, or mg/dL:
2 Other Ways to Assess Cholesterol
Frid notes, however, that this test is expensive. In most cases, he believes doing a basic cholesterol test and knowing patients’ risk factors are enough.
Taking Control of Your Cholesterol Numbers
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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 to 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.
How Low Should Your Cholesterol Be
It is usually safe to lower cholesterol with diet, exercise and some medications, but if your cholesterol drops for no obvious reason, you may be in trouble. You may not be able to absorb certain nutrients, you may have liver damage and not be able to make cholesterol, or you may have a serious disease that damages normal body functions. Both high and low cholesterol can cause depression.
Drugs Used to Lower the Bad LDL Cholesterol Statins block the enzyme that your liver uses to make cholesterol. They can cause or increase risk for liver damage, muscle pain and diabetes. Ezetimibe prevents absorption of cholesterol in bile acids in the small intestine. It lowers LDL and raises HDL. It can cause muscle and belly pain. PCSK-9 Inhibitors reduce the effects of the liver enzyme that makes cholesterol. They can cause a stuffy nose, chills and fever, swelling at the injection site, and muscle soreness. Fibrates bind to cholesterol in your intestines to reduce absorption into the bloodstream.
Your Body Needs Some CholesterolSome cholesterol is necessary for everyone. Your body makes vitamin D from cholesterol, and vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium to help protect your bones. Your body also makes several hormones from cholesterol and cholesterol also helps you digest some food components. More than 25 percent of your cholesterol is in your brain, and very low blood levels of cholesterol may harm your brain.
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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 don’t recommend getting a cholesterol test during pregnancy because your results won’t 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 don’t 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.
What Is High Cholesterol
Cholesterol levels are measured in millimoles per litre in the UK. The government recommends the general population aims for under 5 mmol/L of total cholesterol levels, but three out of five adults in the UK have levels of 5 mmol/L or above.
Your GP will explain your cholesterol readings and what they mean in terms of your future health – mainly whether you have a high, moderate or low risk of developing cardiovascular disease within the next 10 years.
After the test, you may just be given the TC figure, but ask your surgery for your full results and keep a note of them to compare against future checks.
Heres a quick guide to understanding your cholesterol levels.
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