Do you know that you need to maintain normal cholesterol levels because it is an important indicator of optimal health?
Good heart health is like a building block, It is cumulative and this is especially true when it comes to high cholesterol numbers.
Cholesterol is a fatty substance that your liver makes and is also found in some foods.
Moreover, your body needs it to function properly. However, having too much bad type of cholesterol i.e. low-density lipoprotein LDL puts you at a risk factor for heart attack or stroke.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, having high cholesterol raises your risk of heart disease.
Your total cholesterol level is the overall amount of cholesterol found in your blood.
It consists of:
- low-density lipoproteins, LDLs
- high-density lipoproteins, HDLs
Let’s discuss it in detail.
Normal Cholesterol Levels in Adults
You should get your cholesterol levels checked every 5 years after your age is more than 20 years, according to the American Heart Association.
Your doctor will perform the screening test i.e. lipid profile.
Cholesterol levels consist of LDLs, HDLs, and triglycerides.
LDL is “bad” cholesterol as it blocks our blood vessels and increases your risk for heart disease.
On the other hand, HDL is “good” cholesterol as it helps to protect you from heart disease.
Thus, the higher your HDL, the better.
Total cholesterol also includes a triglyceride count and these are other types of fat that can build up in the body in the body.
Moreover, doctors consider them “building blocks” of cholesterol.
High levels of triglycerides and low levels of HDL raise your risk for heart disease.
This is because as you age, cholesterol tends to climb. Furthermore, men are often at a higher risk than women for higher cholesterol.
However, as a woman experiences menopause, their risk for high cholesterol goes up.
For those with high cholesterol and other heart risks, like diabetes, doctors often recommend frequent testing.
Normal Cholesterol Level chart for Adults
According to the 2018 guidelines on the management of blood cholesterol in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, JACC, the following are the acceptable, borderline, and high measurements for adults.
Moreover, it is important to note that all these values are in mg-dL i.e. milligrams per deciliter, and are on fasting measurements.
|Total cholesterol||HDL cholesterol||LDL cholesterol||Triglycerides|
|Good||Less than 200 mg/dL (but the lower the better)||The ideal is 60 or higher; 40 or higher for men and 50 or higher for women is acceptable||Less than 100; below 70 if coronary artery disease is present||Less than 149; ideal is <100|
|Borderline to moderately elevated||200–239||n/a||130–159||150–199|
|High||240 or higher||60 or higher||160 or higher; 190 considered very high||200 or higher; 500 considered very high|
|Low||n/a||less than 40 for men and less than 50 for women||n/a||n/a|
Understanding Cholesterol Levels in Men vs. Women
In most cases, guidelines are similar for both men and women over the age of 20, though they may differ when it comes to HDL cholesterol as you can see in the above chart.
Moreover, women should aim for higher levels of HDL cholesterol.
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Cholesterol in Children
Children who are physically active, eat a nutrient-rich diet, are not overweight or obese, and do not have a family history of high cholesterol are at a lower risk of having high cholesterol.
Moreover, according to the recommendations of current guidelines, you should get your child’s cholesterol levels checked between the age of 9 and 11.
Also, when their age is between 17 and 21 years of age, get them checked again.
Factors like diabetes, obesity, or a family history of high cholesterol are certain factors that put your child at more risk.
Thus, make sure to keep their check their cholesterol levels between ages 2 and 8 and against between 12 and 16 years of age.
Normal Cholesterol Levels chart for Children
According to JACC, the following are the recommended cholesterol level for children.
All these levels are in mg/dL:
|Total cholesterol||HDL cholesterol||LDL cholesterol||Triglycerides|
|Good||170 or less||Greater than 45||Lesser than 110||Less than 75 in children 0–9; less than 90 in children 10–19|
|Borderline||170–199||40-45||110–129||75–99 in children 0–9; 90–129 in children 10–19|
|High||200 or higher||n/a||130 or higher||100 or more in children 0–9; 130 or more in children 10–19|
|Low||n/a||Less than 40||n/a||n/a|
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
- consume a lot of saturated and trans fats
- have limited physical activity
- smoke tobacco products
- 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.
Dangers of Low Cholesterol
While your doctor can lower high LDL levels of cholesterol with the help of medications when your cholesterol levels drop it can affect your mental health.
While the exact causes are still being studied, researchers are still concerned about this effect.
Researchers suggest that because cholesterol is involved in making hormones and vitamin D, low levels can affect the health of your brain.
Moreover, vitamin D is important for cell growth, however, the connection is still not clear.
Risk factors for low cholesterol include having a family history of the condition, being on statins, or other blood pressure treatment programs.
Furthermore, having untreated clinical depression can also increase your risk for low cholesterol levels.
Treatment Options to maintain Normal Cholesterol Levels
Your doctor may recommend a treatment plan for high cholesterol that includes lifestyle modifications and medications.
This will also vary based on factors like medications you may be taking, your age, gender, and general health.
The following are some medications are most common prescription medications for high cholesterol:
Statins: These medications help to lower LDL cholesterol by slowing the production of cholesterol by your liver.
Bile Acid Sequestrants: Bile acid sequestrants helps in digestion. These resins can also help to reduce cholesterol levels in the blood by binding to bile acids and removing them.
Thus, forcing the body to break down LDL cholesterol to create bile acids instead.
Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitors: These inhibitors can block the absorption of cholesterol from the diet, sometimes in conjunction with statins.
Bempedoic Acid: It helps to stop an enzyme in your liver, ATP citrate lyase, from making cholesterol.
Your doctor can combine statins for the increased benefit for those with familial hypercholesterolemia.
PCSK9 Inhibitors: Your doctor will also prescribe this medication will familial hypercholesterolemia.
Moreover, they will inject these drugs to help your liver absorb and remove LDL cholesterol from the blood.
Medications can also be used to treat contributing factors to cholesterol like triglycerides.
Furthermore, they may also be used in addition to some of the medications above.
Lifestyle Changes to Maintain Normal Cholesterol Levels
One of the misconceptions is that you can have poorly controlled cholesterol for years and then decide to take action, by then the plaque already builds up in arteries.
However, the good news is that lifestyle changes can effectively help to reduce your cholesterol levels.
They are also fairly straightforward and you can also make these changes with age and within most abilities.
Exercise: Physical activity can help you to lose weight and boost your HDL cholesterol.
Moreover, aim form 30 to 60 minutes of moderate cardiovascular exercise like biking, jogging, swimming, and dancing at least 5 times a week.
Eat more Fiber: Try to add more fiber to your diet like replacing white bread and pasta with whole grains.
Healthy Fats: Healthy fats include olive oil, avocado, and certain nuts. These will not raise your LDL levels.
Limit your Cholesterol Intake: Reduce the amount of high-saturated fatty foods like cheese, whole milk, and high-fat red meats.
Quit Smoking: Smoking decreases HDL cholesterol, therefore, quitting it can help you better manage your cholesterol levels.
Limit Your Alcohol Intake: According to the American Heart Association, drinking alcohol can raise your levels of triglyceride fats in your bloodstream and lead to hypertension and atrial fibrillation.
Maintain Weight: Lossing excess body weight can help to lower your cholesterol levels.
Check Your Levels: You can see a doctor or use an at-home test kit to check your cholesterol levels.
You can purchase a testing kit from a pharmacy nearby.
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When should you Speak with a Doctor?
It is important to note that there are a few symptoms of high cholesterol.
However, emergency symptoms are stroke or a heart attack that may be the only indicator of damage from high cholesterol.
This means that you should make sure that your doctor regularly monitors it.
Moreover, you should get your cholesterol levels checked with a blood test every 4 to 6 years.
Your doctor may also recommend more frequent screening if you live with any of the following:
- a history of heart condition
- high blood pressure
- if you smoke
- overweight or obese
- have a family history of high cholesterol
Learn more about Laboratory Tests here.
It is important to maintain normal cholesterol levels as it reduces the chances of heart disease. As high levels of cholesterol do not cause symptoms, you may not be aware you have a condition until you undergo a blood screening.
This test will help measure total cholesterol levels and it may also check triglyceride levels. After the diagnosis, your doctor can help you to lower the levels and recommend how to maintain normal cholesterol levels.