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.
Cholesterol Chart For Adults
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:
- Statins.Statins lower the LDL cholesterol levels by slowing the production of cholesterol by the liver.
- Bile acid sequestrants.Bile acid sequestrants are substances used in digestion. These resins can reduce cholesterol levels in the blood by binding to bile acids and removing them, forcing the body to break down LDL cholesterol to create bile acids instead.
- Cholesterol absorption inhibitors.Cholesterol absorption inhibitors can block the absorption of cholesterol from the diet, sometimes in conjunction with statins.
- Bempedoic acid.Bempedoic acid helps to stop an enzyme in the liver, ATP citrate lyase, from making cholesterol. This drug is often combined with statins for increased benefit for those with familial hypercholesterolemia, an inherited condition that can cause early heart disease.
- PCSK9 inhibitors. Also used frequently with familial hypercholesterolemia, PCSK9 inhibitors, which are injected drugs, help the liver absorb and remove more LDL cholesterol from the blood.
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.
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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What Do The Results Mean
The results of the test determine whether the cholesterol levels in the persons blood are healthy.
The results will be broken down into several categories by the type of fat. The results are measured in milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood .
Total cholesterol levels
Having a result less than 200 mg/dL is considered good. Borderline high results range from 200-239 mg/dL. High cholesterol levels are considered to be any number over 240 mg/dL.
HDL cholesterol levels
With HDL, it is higher levels that are desirable. A result below 40 mg/dL is poor. A result between 40 and 59 mg/dL is better, while a reading of 60 mg/dL or higher is the best result.
LDL cholesterol levels
LDL cholesterol recommendations vary based on the health of an individual.
- People with heart disease or diabetes should aim for LDL levels below 70 mg/dL.
- Individuals with no heart disease but who are at higher risk for heart disease need to keep levels below 100 mg/dL.
- For people with no increased risk of heart disease, LDL levels between 100 and 129 mg/dL are near perfect.
- A reading from 130 to 159 mg/dL is considered borderline high for those with no heart disease and high for those where heart disease is present.
- A reading from 160 to 189 mg/dL is considered high for those without heart disease and very high for those with heart disease.
- A reading above 190 mg/dL is considered very high for all groups.
Lifestyle changes for high cholesterol include the following:
Natural Remedies And Lowering Cholesterol
Its very important to talk to your health professional before using any:
- natural remedies
- or complementary therapies.
Sometimes they can do more harm than good. They may interact with any medication that youre taking, which can be dangerous. They can also make your medication less effective. Your doctor needs to know everything that you are taking to ensure that the combination is safe.
If youve been prescribed cholesterol-lowering medication, make sure you take it as directed by your doctor. This is one of the most effective ways to keep your cholesterol levels down.
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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.
Cholesterol levels rise during the menopause
Women may also find their cholesterol levels rise during the menopause.
What Are Normal Levels Of Cholesterol
Normal levels of cholesterol are different depending on your age and sex. These guidelines show desirable total, non-HDL,LDL and HDL levels by age and sex.
Table 1: Target cholesterol levels by age and sex
|Age and sex|
People aged 19 years and younger Men aged 20 years and olderWomen aged 20 years and older
The table above spells out the numbers for normal cholesterol levels. The table below shows you cholesterol levels that are higher than normal. High cholesterol numbers vary by age group and sex, and may be different for those who have heart disease. These guidelines represent high cholesterol numbers for those who do not have heart disease.
Table 2: High total, non-HDL and LDL cholesterol levels by age and sex
|Age and sex|
|People aged 19 years and younger|
Borderline: 170-199 mg/dL
High: Greater than or equal to 200 mg/dL
Borderline: 120-144 mg/dL
High: Greater than or equal to 145 mg/dL
Borderline: 110-129 mg/dL
High: Greater than or equal to 130 mg/dL
High: Greater than or equal to 239 mg/dL
Near optimal or above optimal: 100-129 mg/dL
Borderline high: 130-159 mg/dL
Very high: Greater than 189 mg/dL
High: Greater than or equal to 239 mg/dL
Near optimal or above optimal: 100-129 mg/dL
Borderline high: 130-159 mg/dL
Very high: Greater than 189 mg/dL
LDL cholesterol levels
If you do not have heart disease or blood vessel disease, and you are not at high risk for developing heart disease, the optimal number is less than 100 mg/dL.
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What Are Dangerous Cholesterol Levels
Cholesterol levels are checked with a simple blood test and measured in milligrams per deciliter . According to the Mayo Clinic, total cholesterol is grouped into the following three categories:
- Less than 200 mg/dL is considered healthy
- Between 200 and 239 mg/dL is borderline high
- 240 mg/dL and higher is classified as high
But it may surprise you to learn that your total cholesterol number might not give you the full picture.
A person’s level of non-HDL cholesterol is more of a concern than their total cholesterol level, says 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.
A non-HDL level is simply a person’s total cholesterol minus their HDL cholesterol. “Non-HDL cholesterol is a very important predictor for the risk of heart disease, stroke or death from cardiovascular disease,” Dr. Eckel tells LIVESTRONG.com.
A healthy level of non-HDL cholesterol is less than 130 mg/dL, according to the Mayo Clinic. If your test results are higher, you are at an increased risk of heart disease.
But according to Dr. Eckel, studies show that non-HDL is the best predictor of cardiovascular disease, better than total cholesterol or LDL-to-HDL ratios. Though many clinicians still use other tests, Dr. Eckel says non-HDL tests are increasingly common.
What Is A Dangerous Cholesterol Level
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in your blood, according to the American Heart Association . It gets a bad rap, but your body actually needs cholesterol to function properly. The key, as with most things, is striking a healthy balance.
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Too-high cholesterol levels are a major risk factor for coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Knowing what’s considered a dangerous total cholesterol level is the first step toward lowering your risk.
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When High Cholesterol Is Good
There are two main types of cholesterol in the body, and only one of them is usually considered to be a risk to heart health.
Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol contributes to the fatty buildup that can clog the arteries. When this buildup clogs or narrows the arteries, a heart attack or stroke is more likely to occur. With LDL cholesterol, lower is better.
HDL cholesterol is useful for the heart. HDL cholesterol may remove LDL cholesterol from the blood and transport it to the liver, where it can be processed and eliminated. A higher HDL number is desirable because it usually signals a lower risk of heart disease.
What Are Normal Cholesterol Levels
Normal cholesterol levels vary based on your age and sex assigned at birth.
Normal cholesterol levels by age chart
The chart below shows normal cholesterol levels. Healthcare providers consider these numbers healthy for most people. If you have heart disease or many risk factors, your LDL target may be different. Your healthcare provider may want your LDL level to be below 70 mg/dL. So, its important to talk with your provider about your test results and what they mean for you.
All units in the chart below are mg/dL.
People assigned male at birth: 40 or higher
People assigned female at birth: 50 or higher
As you review your results, remember that you want your LDL to be low and your HDL to be high. Ideally, your HDL should be above 60. Its the helpful cholesterol. An HDL above 60 offers you protection against heart disease.
Most normal cholesterol levels are the same regardless of your sex. But there is one key difference among adults. Thats your HDL number. As the chart above shows, people assigned female at birth need a higher HDL level compared with people assigned male at birth .
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Symptoms Of High Blood Cholesterol
Usually, the first symptom of high cholesterol is the simply the consequence of harboring an undetected heart issue that results in a heart attack or other peripheral vascular disease.
Individuals who suffer from extremely high cholesterol levels sometimes develop deposits of fat under the skin and in tendons, a condition called xanthomas. Spleen, liver or pancreas problems may also emerge when cholesterol levels are out of control.
Undergoing blood tests and comparing cholesterol numbers to a cholesterol chart is the most accurate and reliable method to use when deciding whether high cholesterol levels exist.
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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
- transient ischaemic attack or a mini stroke
- peripheral arterial disease
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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
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Butter And Some Oils The Silent Cholesterol Attack
Butter is a high cholesterol food which is something of a silent killer many people never consider the health implications of eating butter because it seems like such a relatively minor part of their diet.
The reality is the butter you spread on your toast and use for cooking can make a huge contribution to your cholesterol levels.
The same applies to certain cooking oils which contain saturated fats like palm oil.
Now, be careful if you want to substitute butter with margarine though some margarine products contain trans fats rather than saturated fats, which actually stimulate the production of bad cholesterol inside your body.
Ideally you want to find spreads and cooking oil products which made from foods high in unsaturated fats.
Olive oil and olive oil based spreads are good examples.
Diet And Lifestyle Changes
A doctor will look at your overall risk of cardiovascular disease and make recommendations to reduce high blood cholesterol as well as managing other risk factors such as high blood pressure, smoking and being overweight.
Reducing high blood cholesterol levels typically involves decreasing the total cholesterol level by decreasing LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides, while maintaining or increasing HDL-cholesterol levels.
- LDL-cholesterol levels are best decreased by eating less saturated fat
- Triglyceride levels are best reduced by eating less sugar-containing foods, limiting alcohol intake, and reducing the intake of total fat
- HDL-cholesterol levels are best increased by exercise, substituting saturated fats with polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fat , and maintaining a healthy weight.
Heart-healthy dietary changes are summarised in our Heart disease diet page.
Other lifestyle changes should include:
- Exercising regularly
Heart-healthy exercise suggestions are summarised in our Heart disease exercise page.
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Testing For High Cholesterol
A simple blood test to assess cholesterol levels can be done by your family doctor or at a medical clinic. Your doctor will likely assess other risk factors for cardiovascular disease at the same time. A sample of blood is taken from a vein and is sent to a laboratory for testing. Cholesterol tests may be done using a finger prick of blood, however this is not as accurate as testing blood from a vein.
Blood cholesterol tests can be fasting or non-fasting. Fasting tests require the person not to have eaten for a period of time prior to the test being taken and give more accurate results than non-fasting tests.
New Zealand health guidelines for acceptable blood cholesterol levels are:
- LDL-cholesterol less than 2.0 mmol/L
- HDL-cholesterol greater than 1.0 mmol/L
- Triglycerides less than 1.7 mmol/L
- Total cholesterol less than 4.0 mmol/L
- Total cholesterol/HDL ratio less than 4.0.
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What Is High Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a fatty molecule that your cells need to function. Your liver makes it, but you can also get cholesterol from the foods you eat.
The term high cholesterol usually refers to the amount of cholesterol being carried in the blood by low-density lipoprotein, or LDL . High-density lipoprotein, or HDL, cholesterol increases your risk of atherosclerosis, where deposits of cholesterol, calcium and white blood cells produce plaques in the walls of arteries. These plaques can reduce blood flow to vital organs like the heart and brain, and produce serious complications like heart attack and stroke.
There can be many reasons why your cholesterol is high:
What Are Hdl And Ldl
HDL and LDL are two types of lipoproteins.They are a combination of fat and protein. The lipids need to be attached to the proteins so they can move through the blood. HDL and LDL have different purposes:
- HDL stands for high-density lipoproteins. It is sometimes called the good cholesterol because it carries cholesterol from other parts of your body back to your liver. Your liver then removes the cholesterol from your body.
- LDL stands for low-density lipoproteins. It is sometimes called the bad cholesterol because a high LDL level leads to a buildup of cholesterol in your arteries.
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