Managing your cholesterol levels can help to keep you healthy as you age, here are some factors to take into account:
- For individuals younger than 19 years, the first test must be done between 9 and 11 years of age. The cholesterol test must be repeated hereafter every five years. Some children may have this test starting at age two if there is a family history of high blood cholesterol, heart attack, or stroke.
- Younger adults (20-45 years) may have the test every five years.
- Men aged 45-65 years and women aged 55-65 years may undergo tests every one to two years.
- Young adults may need to have total cholesterol less than 170 mg/dL.
- Adults who have total cholesterol levels less than 200 mg/dL are considered healthy.
- If total cholesterol is between 200 and 239 mg/dL, it is borderline high.
- If total cholesterol is 240 mg/dL and above, it is considered high and harmful.
- LDL cholesterol levels should be less than 100 mg/dL.
- 100-129 mg/dL is acceptable for people with no health problems but maybe a concern for anyone with heart diseases or heart disease risk factors.
- 130-159 mg/dL is borderline high.
- 160 mg/dL and above is considered high and harmful.
Good cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein [HDL]):
- Young adults may need to have HDL more than 45 mg/dL.
- The optimal reading for HDL levels is of 60 mg/dL or higher.
- If HDL is less than 40 mg/dL, it can be a major risk factor for heart disease.
- Young adults may need to have non-HDL cholesterol levels less than 120 mg/dL. Adults may need to maintain less than 130 mg/dL.
- A normal triglyceride level is below 150 mg/dL. A person may need treatment if they have triglyceride levels that are borderline high (150-199 mg/dL) or high (200 mg/dL or more).
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is an important substance found in all cells of the body. It is a waxy, fat-like substance required by the body to build healthy cells, hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help in digestion of food. Excess cholesterol is harmful to the body. Cholesterol usually comes from the following sources:
- Liver: It makes the cholesterol that is required for the body.
- Food: The remainder of the cholesterol in the body comes from foods derived from animals (meat, poultry, and full-fat dairy products). These foods are usually high in saturated and trans fats. These fats may cause the liver to produce more cholesterol; this added production means excess cholesterol, which is harmful for the body.
- Some tropical oils: Oils such as palm oil, palm kernel oil, and coconut oil if consumed may trigger the liver to produce more cholesterol. These oils are often found in baked goods.
How do we diagnose high cholesterol?
Lipoprotein panel is a type of blood test that can measure cholesterol levels. Before the test, the patient may need to fast (not eat or drink anything but water) for 9-12 hours. The test gives information about different types of cholesterol:
- Total cholesterol: It shows the total amount of cholesterol in the blood. It includes both low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.
- LDL (bad) cholesterol: It transports cholesterol particles throughout the body. LDL cholesterol is often called “the bad cholesterol” because it builds up in the walls of the arteries, making them hard and narrow.
- HDL (good) cholesterol: It picks up excess cholesterol and takes it back to your liver.
- Non-HDL: This number is total cholesterol minus HDL. Non-HDL includes LDL and other types of cholesterol such as very low–density lipoprotein (VLDL).
- Triglycerides: Another form of fat in the blood that can increase your risk for heart diseases, especially in women, is triglycerides.
Too much of the bad kind, or not enough of the good kind, increases the risk that cholesterol will slowly build up in the inner walls of the arteries that feed the heart and brain.