It’s essential to monitor your cholesterol levels, especially if you have a history of high cholesterol. Simply put, cholesterol is a fat-like, waxy substance your body needs to work efficiently. It is found in animal products and produced in the liver. Even though your body needs it, having too much puts you at risk for coronary artery disease.
Because you’re at risk for coronary artery disease, if cholesterol levels are too high, it’s essential to know what is a healthy cholesterol level. We will explain what’s normal or too high, as there are factors that contribute to fluctuating cholesterol levels.
Different Types of Cholesterol and Levels
To measure your cholesterol, you need to take a lipoprotein test. You will then be given information about five aspects:
- LDL (bad) cholesterol – the leading cause of artery blockage and build-up, known as low density.
- HDL (good) cholesterol – removes cholesterol from arteries, known as high density.
- Total cholesterol – the total amount of cholesterol in the blood; includes LDL and HDL.
- Non-HDL cholesterol— total cholesterol minus HDL.
- Triglycerides—a fat found in the blood that raises the risk for heart disease, especially women.
Depending on your age and gender, there are healthy levels for different people. Both men and women age 20 and older have the follow levels deemed normal:
- Non-HDL: 130mg/dL or less
- LDL: 100mg/dL or less
- Total Cholesterol: 125 to 200mg/dL
For HDL, different levels are considered normal for men and women.
- Normal HDL for men: 40mg/dL or more
- Normal HDL for women: 50mg/dL or more
Factors That Affect Cholesterol Levels
There are many aspects of your body and how you eat that affects your cholesterol levels. Some include:
- Eating habits: For instance, your diet has a lot to do with your cholesterol levels. Eating foods that have a large amount of saturated fat such as some meats, chocolate, processed, dairy products, and fried can contribute to a high cholesterol level.
- Having extra weight: being overweight puts you at risk for heart disease, which can increase your cholesterol. Reducing your weight lowers the bad cholesterol and raises good cholesterol.
- Exercise: Not being active enough puts you at risk for heart disease. Regular activity lowers LDL and increases HDL.
- Gender and Age: Cholesterol levels rise as you get older. Women usually have lower total cholesterol than men until they reach menopause. After menopause, LDL levels may increase.
- Genes: It may be in your DNA how much cholesterol your body makes.
- Ethnicity: Some ethnicities tend to have higher blood cholesterol. For instance, African Americans usually have higher HDL and LDL than Caucasians.
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Knowing what contributes to high cholesterol and knowing a normal cholesterol level ensure your health in the long run.