Conundrums in Cholesterol — What are your Numbers?

Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels is a great way to maintain heart health. In doing so, you are lowering your chance of getting heart disease or suffering a stroke. Cholesterol isn’t exactly easy to understand, though. Not all types of cholesterol are bad. Some forms of cholesterol are good for your body. The main thing you can do to take control of your cholesterol levels is to know if they are in a healthy range or not. To understand cholesterol testing and improving your health, look through the guidelines below.

Anyone who is at least 20 years of age should go in for a fasting lipoprotein profile. It measures your LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides and total cholesterol. To have the test performed, you have to go nine to 12 hours without consuming liquids, food or pills. The test report will show you the total cholesterol levels in milligrams per deciliters of blood. To determine the impact your cholesterol levels are going to have on heart disease, age, smoking, family history and high blood pressure are important.

Consider the following to see where your total cholesterol numbers should be:

Total Blood Cholesterol Levels

  • Less than 200 mg/dL – This is where your numbers should be. Having a number in this range will lower your chance of heart disease.
  • 200–239 mg/dL – For those in this category, you are borderline high. Your chance of heart disease increases in this range.
  • 240 mg/dL or more – Those in this range have higher than normal blood cholesterol levels. If you are in this category, you are more than twice as likely to have heart disease as someone with levels less than 200 mg/dL.

HDL Cholesterol Levels

  • Less than 40 mg/dL for men and less than 50 mg/dL for women – HDL cholesterol levels are too low. You are at an increased risk of heart disease.
  • 60 mg/dL or higher – High levels of HDL cholesterol. If your levels are at 60 mg/dL or higher, your body has a great protective barrier against heart disease.

When it comes to HDL cholesterol, the higher the level, the better it is for your body. Lower levels increase your risk of heart disease. Men, on average, have HDL levels of 40-50 mg/dL, while women have 50-60 mg/dL. If your HDL levels are higher than 60 mg/dL, you are well protected from heart disease. Average levels for American adults who are 20 or older is 54.3 mg/dL.

Being overweight, smoking and leading a sedentary lifestyle lower your HDL cholesterol levels. To raise HDL, stay within a healthy weight for your age and frame, stop smoking and aim for 30-60 minutes of exercise as often as you can. Individuals who have higher blood triglycerides often have lower HDL levels. These individuals are at an increased risk of stroke and heart attacks. Anabolic steroids, progesterone and testosterone can also lower your HDL levels. Female sex hormones increase your HDL levels.

LDL Bad Cholesterol Levels

Lowering your LDL cholesterol lowers your chance of stroke and heart attack. In reality, this is the best gauge of total cholesterol levels. Generally, LDL levels fall as follows:

  • Less than 100 mg/dL – Ideal
  • 100–129 mg/dL – Close to Ideal
  • 130–159 mg/dL – Bordering on High
  • 160–189 mg/dL – High
  • 190 mg/dL or higher – Extremely High

Other risk factors for stroke and heart disease play a role in determining what your LDL levels should be, as well as a treatment plan. Healthy levels for you aren’t going to be healthy for friends or family. Average LDL levels for adults 20 years of age and older is 115.0 mg/dL.

Triglyceride Levels

The most common types of fat in the body are triglycerides. Many of those with diabetes or heart disease have high triglyceride levels. Normal levels vary based on sex and age. High triglycerides combined with high LDL levels and low HDL levels speeds atherosclerosis. In turn, it increases your chance of having a stroke and heart attack.

  • Less than 100 mg/dL – Ideal
  • Less than 150 mg/dL – Normal Range
  • 150-199 mg/dL – Elevated
  • 200-499 mg/dL – High
  • 500 mg/dL or higher – Extremely High

Obesity, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, lack of physical activity and high-carb diets all increase your triglyceride levels. Lifestyle choices play a pivotal role in triglyceride levels, but, genetic disorders and underlying diseases might also be the cause. Average triglyceride level for adults 20 or older is 144.2 mg/dL. Changing your lifestyle is the best way to reduce your triglyceride levels.