Your normal cholesterol levels vary with age, weight, and gender.
With the passage of time, your body produces more cholesterol, thus as adults, you should keep a check on your cholesterol levels.
This is ideal every 4 to 6 years.
Doctors measure cholesterol in three categories: total cholesterol, HDL or ‘good cholesterol, and LDL, ‘bad cholesterol’.
However, many individuals often face difficulties in balancing these levels.
While you should take measures to maintain the levels of LDL cholesterol, having more HDL cholesterol offers protection against diseases.
These diseases include heart-related diseases like heart attacks and strokes.
In this article, you will learn about cholesterol, its types, what causes high cholesterol, and more.
But first, let’s understand what is cholesterol.
Cholesterol is a type of fat and lipid that is present in your body.
It is a waxy, fat-like substance that your liver produces and is crucial for the cell membranes, certain hormones, and vitamin D.
However, it is important to note that blood cholesterol level does not dissolve in water and cannot travel through your blood on its own.
For transportation, your liver produces lipoproteins. Lipoproteins are made of fats and proteins and carry cholesterol and triglycerides that is another type of lipid through your bloodstream.
The two major forms of lipoproteins are:
- low-density lipoprotein LDL
- high-density lipoprotein HDL
If your blood has excess HDL cholesterol, then it is high cholesterol and if you do not get treatment, it can lead to certain medical conditions.
These include heart attack and stroke.
However, high cholesterol usually causes no symptoms and this is why many doctors emphasize getting tests to monitor your cholesterol levels.
Understanding LDL, ‘bad cholesterol’ and HDL, ‘good cholesterol
Low-density cholesterol or LDL is often termed as bad cholesterol as it carries cholesterol to your arteries.
Moreover, if your levels of LDL cholesterol are too high, it can accumulate or buildup on the walls of your arteries.
cholesterol plaque and can narrow down your arteries, limit your blood flow, and raise your risk of developing blood clots.
Thus, if this clot blocks an artery it can lead to heart attack or stroke.
However, HDL or high density lipoprotein HDL cholesterol is called good cholesterol.
It helps return the HDL cholesterol to your liver, thus removing it from your body.
This helps to prevent cholesterol plaque from building up in your arteries.
Moreover, when you have healthy levels of HDL or good cholesterol, it can help lower your risks of developing blood clots, heart diseases, and stroke.
Normal Cholesterol Levels and Age
Cholesterol numbers changes with age.
Thus many doctors recommend taking preventive steps earlier in life to prevent high levels of cholesterol to develop.
If you do not get treatment for years, it can become much thicker to treat.
However, children are less likely to have high levels of cholesterol and only have to get them checked twice before they are 18 years of age.
But if your child has risk factors for higher levels, then you should make sure to monitor the cholesterol levels frequently.
Normal Cholesterol Levels in Adults
According to the American Heart Association, as an adult, you should get your cholesterol levels checked every 4 to 6 years.
You should do it starting at the age of 20, as this is the age when your cholesterol levels start to change.
Moreover, as you age, your cholesterol levels will climb.
Men generally are at a higher risk than women, however, the levels of cholesterol rise when a woman reaches menopause.
For individuals with high cholesterol and other cardiac factors like type 1 or type 2 diabetes, doctors recommend more frequent testing.
According to the guidelines on the management of blood cholesterol published in the Journal of American College of Cardiology, JACC, the following are the acceptable, borderlines, and high measurements for adults.
Moreover, these values are in mg/dL, milligrams per deciliter, and are based on fasting measurements.
||Less than 200 (but the lower the better)
||The ideal is 60 or higher; 40 mg/dL 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
||240 or higher
||60 or higher
||160 or higher; 190 considered very high
||200 or higher; 500 considered very high
||less than 40
Cholesterol Levels in Children
Children who are physically active, have a balanced and healthy diet, are not overweight, and do not have a family history of high cholesterol are at a lower risk of having high cholesterol.
According to CDC, you should make sure to get your child’s cholesterol levels checked between the age of 9 and 11.
Moreover, you should do it again when your child reaches the age between 17 and 21.
However, children who suffer from diabetes, obesity, or have a family history of high cholesterol should monitor the levels.
This should be taken care of especially between the ages of 2 and 8 and again between 12 and 16 years of age.
According to JACC, the following are the normal cholesterol levels for your child:
||170 or less
||Greater than 45
||These are less than 110
||Less than 75 in children 0–9; less than 90 in children 10–19
||75-99 in children 0–9; 90–129 in children 10–19
||200 or higher
||130 or higher
||100 or more in children 0–9; 130 or more in children 10–19
||Less than 40
What Causes Changes in Cholesterol Levels?
Eating foods that have too much cholesterol, saturated fats, and trans fat can increase your risk of developing high cholesterol.
Other factors like inactivity and smoking can also contribute to increasing it.
Factors like genetics also increase your chances of developing high cholesterol.
Genes from your parents instruct your body on how to process cholesterol and fats.
Thus, if your parents suffer from high cholesterol, then you are also at a higher risk of having it as well.
In rare cases, high cholesterol can be due to familial hypercholesterolemia.
This genetic disorder prevents your body from removing LAD.
According to the National Human Genome Research Institute, most adults with this condition have total cholesterol levels above 300 mg/dL and LDL levels above 200mg/dL.
Moreover, other medical conditions like diabetes and hypothyroidism can also increase your risk of developing high cholesterol and other complications.
Learn more about ways to quit smoking.
Risk Factors for High Cholesterol and Complications
You may be at a higher risk of developing high cholesterol if you are:
- overweight or obese
- eat an unhealthy diet
- do not exercise
- have a family history of high cholesterol
- have diabetes, kidney diseases, or hypothyroidism
Moreover, individuals of all ages, genders, and ethnicity can have high cholesterol.
If you do not get treatment high cholesterol can plaque buildup in your arteries.
Overtimes, it can narrow them down thus blocking the blood flow.
This can lead to atherosclerosis.
This is a serious condition and can limit the blood flow and increases your chances of developing blood clots.
Moreover, it can be life-threatening as it can lead to stroke, heart attack, angina, high blood pressure, etc.
Visiting a Doctor
You should get the cholesterol levels of your child checked once or twice before the age of 18.
However, most doctors do not recommend checking the levels during puberty.
If you have a family history of heart disease or are overweight, then you should get your and your family’s cholesterol levels checked.
Moreover, if you are over the age of 20, then you should take tests for your cholesterol levels every 4 to 6 years.
If you do not have any health conditions, this is great.
However, you should seek medical advice or seek your doctor’s help if:
- results of your cholesterol tests are high or borderline high levels of total and LDL cholesterol
- you are overweight
- have a family history of heart diseases.
How to prevent an Increase in Cholesterol Levels?
By adopting certain lifestyle changes, you can effectively maintain and reduce cholesterol levels.
They are easy to follow and you and your family can easily follow them:
Exercise: Regular exercise can help you lose weight and boost your HDL cholesterol.
Therefore, you can aim for at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderate cardiovascular exercise like biking, jogging, swimming, or dancing.
Eat Fiber: Adding more fiber to your diet and replacing white bread and pasta can help maintain your cholesterol levels.
Healthy Fats: Adding healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, and nuts can help maintain your cholesterol.
Limit your Intake of Fats: You should aim to reduce the intake of high-saturated fatty foods like cheese, milk, and red meat.
Quit Smoking: Smoking increases HDL cholesterol, thus if you smoke or use its by-products, you should try to avoid and eventually quit it.
Lose Weight: Lose excess body fat by making certain dietary changes and choosing lean proteins to eat.
Moreover, you should limit the intake of unhealthy fats, sugary snacks, and add more physical activity to your routine.
Maintaining normal cholesterol numbers is crucial for your overall health as maintaining the levels can help reduce the risk of developing diseases like heart diseases, kidney diseases, and hypothyroidism.
Regular exercise, a healthy diet with good fats, quitting smoking, eating fiber, and losing excess weight are some preventive measures you can take to reduce your chances of developing high cholesterol.