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High cholesterol level is one of the biggest risks for heart disease, and is a cause of concern. So much so that people at the turn of 40 get scared on merely hearing this dreaded word. But with proper knowledge of the subject, this fear can be quelled.

If you ask a layman, the answer you will get will sound something like "Cholesterol is a seemingly omnipresent accursed substance which causes diseases." But unknown to most people, cholesterol does not only come from foods, but a small level of it is also produced by the body. The body produces it as it serves a few purposes, namely producing cell membranes and hormones. But excess of it creates trouble. Its consumption beyond a certain level (which admittedly is quite low!) creates trouble for the body and causes various diseases. Unfortunately, this soft waxy lipid does not dissolve in blood and instead sticks on to the walls of the blood vessels. This creates a bottleneck within the blood vessels and in worst circumstances, a blockage. While a bottleneck might not kill you directly (may cause high blood pressure and increase chances of stroke), an absolute blockage can be fatal. A condition of high cholesterol level is known as hypercholesterolemia.

Cholesterol is classified under four main heads, total cholesterol level (includes HDL, LDL), HDL , LDL and triglyceride level. These four components form your lipid profile.

Normal Levels
Cholesterol is mostly measured in the unit milligrams per deciliter (mg/DL). However, it can also be measured in milimoles per liter (mmol/l). For the sake of convenience, I've included both. In case you want to find out your own cholesterol level in either calibration, here are the equations for it:
1 mmol/l = (1 mg/dl) / 18
1 mg/dl = (1 mmol/l) x 18

mg/dl mmol/l Category
< 200 mg/dL < 11.11 mmol/l Desired Level. Cholesterol at this level indicates no risk
200 - 239 mg/dL 11.11 - 13.27 mmol/l Slightly risky and needs to be controlled
> 240 mg/dL > 13.33 mmol/l Very risky and chances of heart diseases are very high

LDL means low density lipoproteins. LDL helps deliver cholesterol to the body from the liver and causes a bottleneck in the blood vessels. Hence understandably it is bad for you. So the levels of LDL in the body must be kept to the bare minimum.

mg/dl mmol/l Category
< 100 mg/dL < 5.55 mmol/l Virtually harmless to the body
100 - 129 mg/dL 5.55 - 7.16 mmol/l Slightly higher than optimal level
130 - 159 mg/dL 7.17 - 8.83 mmol/l This level is classified as borderline high and should be brought under control
160 - 189 mg/dL 8.88 - 10.5 mmol/l High level
> 190 > 10.5 mmol/l Very high and potentially very risky

HDL means high density lipoproteins. HDL carries the cholesterol away from the blood cells back to your liver.

mg/dl mmol/l Category
< 40mg/dL < 2.22 mmol/l Very low level and high risk of heart disease
40 - 59 mg/dL 2.22 - 3.27 mmol/l Slightly better but not optimal
> 60 mg/dL > 3.33 mmol/l Optimal level

Triglyceride Levels
Triglycerides are a type of fat which usually increase due to consumption of sweets and alcohol.

mg/dl mmol/l Category
< 150 mg/dL < 8.33 mmol/l Optimal level
150 - 199 mg/dL 8.33 - 11.05 mmol/l This level is classified as borderline high
200 - 499 mg/dL 11.05 - 27.77 mmol/l This level is classified as high and needs to be reduced
> 500 mg/dL > 27.77 mmol/l Very high and potentially fatal

These were the ideal cholesterol levels for men. It is essential that you get your cholesterol checked regularly so that if your levels increase, you can rein it in before they worsen.