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.
The Baby Boomer Heart: Cholesterol Rising
People between ages 45-60 years are at risk for high cholesterol. High cholesterol can build up even in trim, active people.
If you are active and young enough to think that “middle age” begins at 60, you’re probably a baby boomer who never thought you’d need to worry about high cholesterol. That’s something that happens to “older” people, but not you!
The truth is, if you’re 45 to 60 — or even younger — you’re at risk. The American Heart Association reports that some 107 million Americans have borderline high or higher cholesterol levels. And experts say that ignoring even slightly elevated cholesterol levels may be a setup for disaster.
“There are few things in modern medicine clearer than the link between high cholesterol and heart disease,” says Harlan Krumholz, MD, professor of cardiology at the Yale University School of Medicine, and author of The Expert Guide to Beating Heart Disease.
But Krumholz tells WebMD that you don’t have to fall prey to statistics. “Studies also show that lowering your cholesterol can reduce your risk of having a heart attack by as much as 40%.”
Understanding Cholesterol: What You Must Know
Here are a few basic facts. Cholesterol comes in two main forms:
These numbers can get confusing. The bottom line? You want high HDL and low triglycerides and LDL.
How To Tell If Your Cholesterol Is Putting You At Risk
Although cholesterol is a leading factor in heart disease, Underberg says that, on its own, it’s not a completely accurate predictor of heart disease risk. It’s just one factor of many risk factors that may eventually lead to heart attack.
“It must be viewed in concert with what else is going on in your body — your weight, body shape, blood pressure, and fitness level — in order to obtain a true picture of heart health,” he tells WebMD.
New, more sophisticated tests are also attempting to tease out the actual size of cholesterol particles in the body, which can make a difference in your risk. In studies thus far, large pieces of LDL cholesterol appear to be less dangerous for the heart than tiny particles, which sneak in under the lining of an artery and lead to inflammation.
Nonetheless, your cholesterol counts. So it’s important for adults to know their total cholesterol count, as well as their LDL, HDL and triglyceride levels. Call your doctor to get your numbers from your last physical when you had blood work done. Then, compare them to these risk levels from the American Heart Association:
- Total Cholesterol
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How Is High Cholesterol Diagnosed
All kids should have their cholesterol checked when they’re between 9 and 11 years old and again when they’re between 17 and 21.
Kids over 2 years old should be tested if they:
- have a parent or other close relative with a total cholesterol higher than 240 mg/dL
- have a family history of cardiovascular disease before age 55 in men and age 65 in women
- have some kinds of medical conditions
- are overweight or obese
- have diabetes, high blood pressure, or smoke cigarettes
Your doctor can order a blood test to check your child’s cholesterol. Your child may have to fast before the test.
According to the National Cholesterol Education Program guidelines, the ranges of total and LDL cholesterol for kids and teens 218 years old are:
mg/dL = milligrams per deciliter
Eat A Healthy Balanced Diet
Reducing your intake of processed foods rich in saturated fats will make a meaningful difference to your cholesterol levels. These are some of the foodstuffs to watch out for:
Full-fat dairy products
Fatty and/or processed meats
You can replace these foodstuffs with healthier alternatives, based on compounds such as olive oil, rapeseed oil or sunflower oil. Also, think about increasing your intake of fresh fruit and vegetables , oily fish and high-fibre foods .
If you have any doubts about your cholesterol, make sure to consult with a medical professional for further guidance.
At The Good Care Group, our live-in carers take the time to create and facilitate a bespoke dietary programme that meets all of our clients nutritional needs by subtly adapting a range of their favourite dishes. If youd like to talk to us about how our service could help optimise your nutritional intake, just contact our friendly team.
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Why Should I Lower My Cholesterol
Evidence strongly indicates that high cholesterol can increase the risk of:
- narrowing of the arteries
- transient ischaemic attack often known as a “mini stroke”
- peripheral arterial disease
This is because cholesterol can build up in the artery wall, restricting the blood flow to your heart, brain and the rest of your body. It also increases the risk of a blood clot developing somewhere in your body.
Your risk of developing coronary heart disease also rises as your blood’s cholesterol level increases. This can cause pain in your chest or arm during stress or physical activity .
High Cholesterol And Covid
Recent research has shown that individuals with high body mass index , a marker of obesity, and high LDL cholesterolalso known as bad cholesterolare at an increased risk of getting COVID-19, but the causal link between the two is unknown.
COVID-19 research is rapidly evolving, and more is being learned about the connections between high cholesterol levels and COVID-19 risk. Scientists theorize that LDL contributes to vasculopathyor blood vessel abnormalitiesin patients with COVID-19. The virus does so by invading endothelial cells and causing injury, triggering an inflammatory reaction that leads to widespread blood clotting called coagulopathies.
The ECs within atherosclerotic plaques are more vulnerable to an attack from COVID-19 or inflammatory storms, causing a rupture of plaques and a high risk of developing coagulopathy in patients with associated cardiovascular preconditions.
High cholesterol, therefore, is a significant contributor to blood vessel injury that can lead to atherosclerosis.
If you have COVID-19 or high cholesterol, you are at high risk of cardiovascular complications, but when the two are present at the same time, you are at especially high risk of experiencing:
- Blood clots
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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.
Understanding The Highs And Lows Of Cholesterol
You know that too much is dangerous. But what is cholesterol, anyway? Where does it come from? And is it all bad?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is found in every cell in the body. Its either made by the body or absorbed from food. Your body needs cholesterol to make important steroid hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and vitamin D. Its also used to make bile acids in the liver these absorb fat during digestion.
So some cholesterol is necessary but bad cholesterol is something you can do without. Excess bad cholesterol in the bloodstream can deposit into the bodys arteries. These deposits are called plaques and result in atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. This is the major cause of heart attacks, strokes and other vascular problems.
Your total cholesterol level is a measure of the total amount of cholesterol circulating in your bloodstream, which includes several components:
- LDL cholesterol: LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein. This is known as the bad cholesterol, which directly contributes to plaque buildup in the arteries. Very low density lipoprotein, or VLDL cholesterol, is another type, which is a precursor to LDL.
- Total cholesterol is VLDL cholesterol plus LDL cholesterol plus HDL cholesterol.
- HDL cholesterol: HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein. Experts think at optimal levels it might help the body get rid of LDL cholesterol.
And guess what? This buildup can start as early as your 20s.
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Triglycerides And Cardiac Risk
Many clinical studies have shown that having a high triglyceride blood level a condition called hypertriglyceridemia is also associated with a substantially elevated cardiovascular risk. While this association is generally accepted by experts, it is not yet agreed that elevated triglyceride levels are a direct cause of atherosclerosis, as LDL cholesterol is thought to be. There is no generally accepted triglyceride hypothesis.
Still, there is no question that hypertriglyceridemia is strongly associated with elevated cardiovascular risk. Furthermore, high triglyceride levels are a prominent feature of several other conditions known to increase cardiac risk. These include obesity, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, hypothyroidism and especially metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
This latter relationship is particularly important. The insulin resistance that characterizes metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes produces an overall metabolic profile that tremendously increases cardiac risk. This unfavorable metabolic profile includes, in addition to hypertriglyceridemia, elevated CRP levels, high LDL cholesterol levels, and low HDL cholesterol levels. People with insulin resistance also tend to have hypertension and obesity. Their overall risk of heart disease and stroke is very high.
How To Lower Ldl Cholesterol
Lifestyle and diet changes are the main ways to prevent or lower high LDL. A trial of eating a low-fat diet, regular aerobic activity, maintaining a healthy weight, and smaller waist circumference is an appropriate first step. It is best to set a timeline to achieve your goals with your doctor. In some cases, if those lifestyle changes are not enough, your physician may suggest a cholesterol lowering medication, such as a statin. If you are considering over-the-counter herbal or ayurvedic medications for cholesterol, please discuss those with your physician first as well.
Rarely, very high LDL is genetic and passed down in families. This is called familial hypercholesterolemia and is caused by a genetic mutation that decreases the livers ability to clear excess cholesterol. This condition can lead to very high LDL levels, and heart attack or stroke at a young age in multiple generations. Those individuals may require special medical treatment for prevention and treatment of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.
Remember, knowledge is the first step. If you dont know your cholesterol levels, get tested. That will give you and your physician a starting point for lifestyle changes and medications if needed. In the meantime, adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle, and do it with friends and family no matter their ages. Theres no time like the present to prevent heart disease.
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Cholesterol Levels In Young Adults Predict Risk Of Future Heart Disease
Young people with even modestly elevated cholesterol levels are more likely to develop coronary artery calcium and atherosclerosis later in life, according to a study by UCSF researchers.
The findings indicate that cholesterol levels found in the majority of young adults in their 20s and 30s are associated with damage to coronary arteries, which can accumulate over time and persist into middle age.
Findings were published August 2, 2010 in the Annals of Internal Medicine and available online at .
The findings refute the common assumption that non-optimal cholesterol levels are insignificant during young adulthood and suggest a stronger emphasis on early lifestyle intervention, according to Mark J. Pletcher, MD, MPH, who is first author on the study.
We dont usually worry too much about heart disease risk until a person is in middle age because its rare to have a heart attack in young adulthood, said Pletcher, who is an associate professor of Epidemiology & Biostatistics and of Medicine at UCSF. However, our evidence shows that young adulthood is an important time because lasting damage already starts to accumulate at this age.
In order to prevent heart disease and stroke more effectively, we should be thinking about cholesterol at a younger age, he said.
Heres Why Diet Isnt The Only Possible Reason For High Cholesterol
Medically reviewed by Rosanna Sutherby, PharmD on Feb 6, 2019. Written by Caitlin Boyd. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
âWhy is my cholesterol high?â If you find yourself asking that, you arenât alone. High cholesterol, a well-known risk factor for heart disease and stroke, affects about 1 in every 3 American adults. Thatâs arguably a pretty large proportion of adults who have high cholesterol â and it raises the question: why is high blood cholesterol so common?
Dietary habits, as many people know, are often responsible for high levels of cholesterol: eat a lot of foods high in saturated fat â cheeseburgers, for instance â and your blood cholesterol level might swing upwards.
While a diet high in saturated and trans fat can increase your total cholesterol level and cause high LDL and triglyceride numbers, this isnât always the whole picture when it comes to cholesterol levels: high blood cholesterol can make an unwelcome appearance even if youâre very careful about eating a healthy, balanced diet.
Hereâs why: there are other potential drivers of high cholesterol, such as a lack of exercise and oneâs genetics.
So read on to take a closer look at both of these non-dietary reasons for high cholesterol if youâre wondering âWhy is my cholesterol high when I eat healthy foods?â
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What Happens If You Have High Cholesterol
What does high cholesterol mean?
High cholesterol means there is too much cholesterol in your blood. This can clog up your arteries the large blood vessels that carry blood around your body. Over time, this can lead to serious problems.
How does cholesterol clog up your arteries?
Excess cholesterol can be laid down in the walls of your arteries. Fatty areas known as plaques can form, and these become harder with time, making the arteries stiffer and narrower. This process is called atherosclerosis.
When the arteries become narrower, its harder for blood to flow through them. This puts a strain on your heart because it has to work harder to pump blood around your body. Eventually, the heart can become weak and cant work as well as it should.
Blood clots can form over the fatty, hardened parts of the arteries. The blood clots can block the artery completely, cutting off the blood flow. Bits of the blood clots can break away and become lodged in an artery or vein in another part of the body, which can cause a heart attack or stroke.
Complications Of High Cholesterol And Covid
When LDL builds up in the blood, it can narrow or clog the arteries, raising your risk of having a:
- Heart attack
- Heart condition
COVID-19 puts the body in a pro-inflammatory state, damaging the heart and lung tissues while also increasing the risk of coagulopathy or blood clots. Those with high cholesterol and COVID-19 are at even higher risk of experiencing a cardiovascular event.
If you are obese or have high cholesterol levels, you may require more rigorous social distancing or shielding from people to avoid COVID-19 infection and subsequent complications.
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How Can I Keep Healthy Blood Cholesterol Levels
Talk to your doctor about your numbers. Your risk of disease depends on other factors, too, in combination with high cholesterol. To keep your cholesterol managed, you should do the following:
- Choose healthy foods. Limit foods that are high in saturated or trans fats, sugar, and sodium . Choose foods high in fiber, such as fresh fruits and veggies, and in unsaturated fats, such as avocados and nuts. Learn more about healthy eatingexternal icon.
- Stay physically active. You should get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate exercise, such as biking or brisk walking, every week.6Learn more about physical activityexternal icon.
- Dont smoke. Smoking damages the blood vessels and greatly increases the risk for heart disease and stroke. If you dont smoke, dont start. If you smoke, learn how to quit.
- Take medicine if necessary. A healthy diet and physical activity can help many people reach healthy cholesterol levels, but some people may need medicines to lower their cholesterol. Always take your medicine as prescribed.
Learn more about ways to prevent high cholesterol.
So What Are The Major Reasons Blood Vessel Walls Become Damaged
The cells of our organs have receptors on them that detect and accept insulin and its cargo glucose. When these receptors are overstimulated by a barrage of insulin tapping at their doors, the cells adapt by reducing the number of receptors on their surface, therefore the cell becomes less sensitive to insulin. A diet high in sugary drinks, refined sugar and processed grains make the pancreas work harder to produce more insulin because higher levels of insulin are needed to affect the receptors. This is the beginning of Type II Diabetes. It is a long slow process started by too much sugar and processed wheat products that desensitize insulin receptors on our cells.
Excess sugar molecules bond to proteins and fats in our bodies causing something called glycation. Glycation creates an increase in the oxidation or breakdown of cells in the body. Oxidation is the process of free radicals damaging cells. Oxidation is a natural process of life but it is when oxidation is happening at an accelerated rate that the body cannot create antioxidants fast enough that is causes damage. The damage happens in the brain, joints and blood vessels. Trans-fats also create oxidation and damage to blood vessels.
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