Although elevated cholesterol levels are not considered to be a disease, they can have a direct impact on heart health and cardiovascular function. To some extent, what you eat contributes to your cholesterol levels, but it is mainly how your liver makes cholesterol that counts. You may refer to the following chart for standard ideal cholesterol levels.
|Less than 40 mg/dL||Increased risk for heart disease|
|40-59 mg/dL||Higher levels are better.|
|60 mg/dL and higher||Can protect against heart disease|
|Less than 100 mg/dL||Optimal|
|100-129 mg/dL||Near/above optimal|
|130-159 mg/dL||Borderline high|
|190 mg/dL and above||Very high|
|Less than 200 mg/dL||Desirable|
|200-239 mg/dL||Borderline high|
|Less than 150 mg/dL||Normal|
|150 - 199 mg/dL||Borderline high|
|200 - 499 mg/dL||High|
|500 or higher||Very high|
Borderline or higher cholesterol levels indicate increased risk for heart disease. This is due to the tendency of LDL cholesterol to stick to the walls of blood vessels and arteries. This causes arterial blockage, which in turn, obstructs the blood flow. When an artery that leads to the heart or brain becomes blocked, it can lead to a serious condition like a heart attack or stroke. Studies indicate that a person with total cholesterol levels exceeding 240 mg/dl is twice as likely to develop and suffer from heart diseases than a person with lower or healthy levels. Typically, elevated cholesterol levels are seen more often in men than in women, and family history of high cholesterol further increases the likelihood of developing this condition. Family history, age, sex, and any preexisting medical conditions like diabetes play an important role in abnormal cholesterol levels. For instance, a 20 year old male, with a family history of heart disease and a borderline cholesterol level is at higher risk for heart disease than a 70 year old male, with high cholesterol, no family history or existing medical conditions.
Ideal cholesterol levels for women are within the same range as those for men. Though fewer women than men tend to develop high cholesterol levels, menopausal women face a higher risk, possibly because of hormonal changes that can increase LDL cholesterol and reduce HDL cholesterol levels at this time. Cholesterol checks are recommended at 5 year intervals after the age of twenty, but more frequently for men over 40 and women over 50.
People who have diabetes are reportedly at twice the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, which is why maintaining cholesterol within the normal range is very important. Diabetes can lead to elevated levels of LDL and low levels of HDL, which in turn, contribute to an increased risk of coronary heart disease. Since the level of risk is significantly greater, for people who suffer from diabetes, targets for ideal cholesterol levels are lower for LDL and higher for HDL cholesterol. The following are ideal cholesterol levels for diabetics:
➺ LDL Cholesterol - Below 100 mg/dl, preferably less than 70 mg/dl
➺ HDL Cholesterol - Above 40 mg/dl, preferably more than 60 mg/dl
➺ Triglycerides - Below 150 mg/dl
Cholesterol can be controlled with a few changes in lifestyle and diet. If you're a smoker, quitting smoking can help increase HDL levels, and reduce the risk of developing coronary heart disease. In addition, eating foods low in cholesterol, as well as regular exercise and adequate rest can help significantly in attaining ideal cholesterol levels. Once you incorporate these habits into your daily routine, you will not only improve your overall health, but will also benefit by keeping diseases at bay. Eat healthy, increase activity, and lower stress - the key to a healthy life lies with you.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.