For a long time, medical professionals have claimed that those with high total cholesterol have a higher risk of heart disease. Your arteries may become clogged with cholesterol, resulting in a heart attack or stroke.
The CDC estimates that roughly 94 million adults in the US have total cholesterol levels above 200 mg/dL, and nearly 7% of children and adolescents between the ages of 6 and 19 have high total cholesterol.
Cholesterol numbers can be confusing. But not all cholesterol is bad for you, especially HDL or “good” cholesterol. However, it’s not the same for low-density lipoprotein (LDL), called “bad” cholesterol. Therefore, knowing which cholesterol and what level can raise your risk or lower your risk for heart disease is necessary.
Cholesterol: An Overview
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that looks like fat and is essential for vital bodily functions. Your liver makes all the necessary cholesterol for your body, but you can also take it in through foods like red meat and dairy products.
It helps produce vitamin D and hormones like testosterone and oestrogen. It also helps stabilise the outer membranes of the body’s cells and digest food. However, having too much cholesterol in your blood increases your risk of coronary artery disease.
A high-fat diet can cause high cholesterol, but other factors also affect your cholesterol levels, including your genes, age, gender, lifestyle, and whether you smoke.
Maintaining Cholesterol Level like a Pro
In today’s fast-paced lifestyle and demanding work schedule, monitoring cholesterol levels and overall health has become difficult and time-consuming.
If that’s the case, joining any premium HealthifyMe plan that adapts to your lifestyle can be a convenient, practical, and healthy choice. HealthifyMe can help you better understand your healthcare options based on your cholesterol level and other metabolic indicators.
With over 25 million users, HealthifyMe is the most popular health and fitness platform in Asia. It creates reliable eating regimens and wellness plans based on your ongoing health restrictions and tracks calories from more than 100,000 Indian food sources.
The HealthifyMe app also has a food and calorie tracker, exercise assistance, water, sleep, BMI, BMR, and weight tracker. There are also home workout videos for men and women that don’t require any equipment, making getting in shape and losing weight fun and easy.
HealthifyMe is accessible to iOS and Android users. After downloading the app and purchasing a plan, you can choose your health and fitness coach to help you get your cholesterol levels back to normal. Let’s say you want to buy a plan but need more information.
You can discuss your body type, blood cholesterol, lifestyle, weight, and medical history with a senior coach to determine the best HealthifyMe premium plan.
Types of Cholesterol
LDL Cholesterol (LDL-C)
LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, carries cholesterol to every cell in your body. It’s known as “bad” cholesterol because it can form fatty deposits, called plaques, in your arteries.
This process of clogging arteries is called atherosclerosis. It narrows arteries in the heart and increases the risk for other health issues. Research shows this can make you more likely to have peripheral artery disease, a stroke, or a heart attack.
HDL Cholesterol (HDL-C)
High-density lipoprotein (HDL), called “good” cholesterol, HDL, or “healthy” cholesterol, can remove and transport LDL to the liver, where it gets removed from your body. Having an ideal HDL level can reduce the heart attack or stroke risk.
These are other types of fat that doctors measure with cholesterol testing. Triglycerides are a type of blood fat that your body uses to generate energy.
In addition to having low HDL or high LDL cholesterol, having high triglyceride levels can cause heart issues. You are also more likely to develop diabetes if you overeat foods rich in triglycerides.
How Do You Measure Cholesterol Levels?
The CDC recommends that people with other risk factors for cardiovascular disease have their cholesterol levels checked every five years or more often.
A “lipoprotein panel” or “blood test” can measure cholesterol levels. Experts recommend people over 45 be screened more frequently for lipid disorders.
Before the test, you must fast for nine to twelve hours and not eat or drink anything other than water. The lipoprotein profile contains the following information:
It includes low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.
The low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol. The leading cause of fat accumulation and blockage of arteries.
High-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or “good” cholesterol, helps remove bad cholesterol from arteries.
This number represents your overall cholesterol minus your HDL. The non-HDL consists of LDL and other types of cholesterol, like VLDL (very low-density lipoprotein). High VLDL levels lead to plaque build-up in the arteries.
It is another type of fat in your blood that can trigger heart disease, especially in women. Extra calories, alcohol, or added sugar are converted into triglycerides and deposited in the body’s fat cells.
TC: HDL Ratio
This ratio compares HDL with total cholesterol. Health experts consider scores above five as high.
The HealthifyMe Note
A Lipid profile can give a clear picture of your heart condition. If your cholesterol level is high, you can take steps to lower it. You and your doctor will plan a personalised strategy to reduce your risks. It might lower your risk of developing heart problems in the future.
Cholesterol Levels and Age/Sex: The Connection
Your body produces enough cholesterol, but several factors can alter this level. Like, your age and gender will influence cholesterol levels. As people age, their cholesterol levels naturally rise. For instance, women who have gone through menopause may have lower HDL cholesterol levels and higher levels of LDL cholesterol. Other factors influencing blood cholesterol levels include diet, exercise, weight, genetics, and other health conditions. Doctors recommend that adults should have total cholesterol levels between 125 and 200 mg/dL.
The chart below depicts ideal cholesterol levels. For the majority of people, healthcare providers consider these numbers healthy. The readings show all units in mg/dL.
Cholesterol Levels by Age/SexClassificationsTotal Cholesterol (TC)Non-HDL-CLDL-CHDL-C
NormalLess than 170 mg/dLLess than 120 mg/dLLess than 110 mg/dL
More than 45 mg/dL
Borderline170-199 mg/dL120-144 mg/dL111-129 mg/dLHighGreater than or equal to 200 mg/dLMore than 145 mg/dLGreater than or equal to 130 mg/dL
20 and above (Male)
Normal125-200 mg/dLLess than 130 mg/dLLess than 100 mg/dL
More than 40 mg/dL
Borderline200-239 mg/dL–130-159 mg/dLHighGreater than or equal to 239 mg/dLGreater than or equal to 130 mg/dL160-189 mg/dL
20 and above (Female)
Normal125-200 mg/dLLess than 130 mg/dLLess than 100 mg/dL
More than 50 mg/dL
Borderline200-239 mg/dL–130-159 mg/dLHighGreater than or equal to 239 mg/dLGreater than or equal to 130 mg/dL160-189 mg/dL
Your LDL target may differ if you have heart disease or other risk factors. Talk to your medical care provider about your test results and what they mean for you.
When looking at your results, you want your HDL cholesterol to be higher than your LDL cholesterol. A healthy HDL level for men is above 40 mg/dL, while for women, it is around 50 mg/dL.
Factors Affecting Cholesterol Level
Your blood cholesterol level spikes if you consume saturated fat, trans fat, and too much dietary cholesterol.
Fatty meats, bakery items, full-fat dairy products, processed foods, and fast food are all harmful to your cholesterol levels. When you consume these types of fat, your LDL cholesterol rises.
Being overweight or obese raises your total cholesterol level, lowers your HDL level, and raises your LDL level. Due to this, your chances of cardiac arrest and stroke will increase.
Lack of Exercise
Following a sedentary lifestyle or not exercising enough can lead to obesity or weight gain, which raises the body’s triglyceride and LDL-C levels.
Smoking leads to increased LDL cholesterol levels. When you smoke, your HDL cholesterol drops. You need a healthy amount of HDL cholesterol to remove extra LDL cholesterol from the arteries.
A lower HDL level can result in a higher LDL and, ultimately, cardiac problems.
Age and Sex
The older you get, the more regularly you need to check your cholesterol numbers. As women get older, their cholesterol levels rise. For example, after menopause, women’s LDL (bad) cholesterol levels tend to rise.
Your genetic makeup influences the amount of cholesterol. High blood cholesterol can run in families. There is a high risk if your biological family member, like parents and grandparents, has high cholesterol or a history of heart attack or stroke.
Managing Cholesterol Levels
There are primarily two ways to lower your total cholesterol level: heart-healthy lifestyle changes and drug treatment.
For most people, adopting a healthy lifestyle can make a big difference. However, doctors may prescribe medication to lower cholesterol levels if lifestyle changes are insufficient.
The saturated fat and cholesterol in your food raise your blood cholesterol level. While eating a heart-healthy diet, limiting these foods will help regulate and lower blood cholesterol. According to research, the DASH diet may reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Being overweight is linked to heart disease. Losing even 5 to 10 pounds can lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.
It also raises your HDL (good) cholesterol level and improves all health factors, including heart disease management. Find out what your ideal weight is by talking to your doctor.
You can also use the HealthifyMe app to monitor your blood sugar in real time, which can help you change your eating habits, consume fewer calories, and possibly lose weight.
If you don’t exercise, you might develop heart disease. As per research, exercise increases the size of LDL particles, lowering the amount of plaque in the arteries.
Regular exercise increases HDL (good cholesterol) levels while decreasing LDL (bad cholesterol). It also helps people lose weight. Taking about 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week can show significant changes.
If you are new to intense exercise, start with 5 to 10 minutes of light exercise daily and gradually increase it.
Stop Smoking, and Tobacco Use
Tobacco use and smoking can damage blood vessel walls, making plaque accumulation easier. Quitting smoking also offers the additional benefit of preventing and managing hypertension.
Limit Your Alcohol Consumption
Excessive alcohol consumption can raise blood triglyceride levels, leading to hypertension (high blood pressure) and atrial fibrillation. Therefore, drink alcohol in moderation to reduce cholesterol levels. Men should consume no more than two drinks per day on average, and women should drink no more than one.
Chronic stress can occasionally increase LDL cholesterol and decrease HDL cholesterol. You can control your mental stress by exercising, doing yoga, getting enough sleep, or doing anything else that helps you relax.
Monitor Your Cholesterol Levels
A cholesterol test can measure cholesterol and fat levels in your blood to assess your risk of cardiovascular disease.
The CDC recommends most healthy adults get their cholesterol levels tested every 4 to 6 years. People with a family history or at higher risk of high cholesterol should get tested regularly.
The HealthifyMe Note
Since cholesterol builds up over time, it is generally beneficial to start making lifestyle changes as soon as possible. A healthy diet and regular exercise can also help lower cholesterol levels in adults and children. Before starting a new exercise regimen or making any changes to your diet, talk to a doctor first. However, at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise daily is advisable.
Treatment Options for Cholesterol
High cholesterol can be treatable with medication, dietary changes, increased exercise and quitting smoking. It will vary depending on your age, gender, general health, and any other medications you may be taking.
If lifestyle changes do not lower your cholesterol enough, your doctor may advise you to take medicines. It doesn’t mean you don’t have to continue making lifestyle changes while taking medication.
The following are some of the drugs that help with high cholesterol:
Statins lower the LDL cholesterol levels by slowing the liver’s production of cholesterol.
Bile Acid Sequestrants
These drugs help lower your LDL cholesterol. These medicines prevent the bile acid in your stomach from being absorbed into the blood.
Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitors
These medications lower triglyceride levels in the blood and reduce cholesterol absorption from food.
Vitamins and Supplements
Like niacin or nicotinic acid, it raises HDL cholesterol levels while lowering LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
These raise HDL levels, lower triglyceride levels, and help to improve overall cholesterol levels.
Fibrates help to lower triglycerides and remove LDL particles. It also increases apoA-I and apoA-II in the liver, which may increase HDL cholesterol levels.
These injectable drugs help lower LDL, the bloodstream’s cholesterol levels. These medicines help people with familial hypercholesterolemia, a genetic condition.
The Most Effective Foods to Lower Cholesterol Level
Diet can be crucial in lowering cholesterol. Eat these foods to lower cholesterol and keep your heart healthy. However, before taking any dietary supplements, consult your doctor.
Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids in fatty fish like salmon, herring, and tuna can lower blood pressure and reduce triglyceride levels. Omega-3 fatty acids help to decrease the risk of sudden death in people who have already experienced a heart attack.
But omega-3 fatty acids have no impact on LDL cholesterol levels. However, due to those acids’ additional health benefits, the American Heart Association advises eating at least two servings of fish per week. Flaxseed and walnuts are all sources of omega-3 fatty acids in trace amounts.
Nuts and Seeds
Tree nuts like walnuts can help raise HDL, and lower LDL, triglycerides, and overall cholesterol in the blood.
A recent study claims that people who have had a heart attack in the past may have a lower risk of heart complications if their diet includes tree nuts like walnuts.
Avocados are a potent source of nutrients, including monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). Consuming an avocado daily as part of a heart-healthy diet may improve LDL cholesterol levels in overweight or obese individuals.
Slices of avocado are a great addition to sandwiches, salads, and other dishes. For example, a Mediterranean diet is good for your heart because it replaces saturated fats in red meat and dairy with MUFAs like avocados.
Olive oil has a lot of monounsaturated fatty acids and little saturated fat, which are better for your heart and raise HDL cholesterol. Try substituting olive oil for other types of fat in your diet. Use olive oil with vinegar to make a salad dressing, sauté, and marinate vegetables.
Oats and Grains
The soluble fibre in grains and oats helps lower your “bad” cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL). Soluble fibre can reduce cholesterol’s absorption into the bloodstream. Therefore, oat flour is better than white flour for getting more fibre.
Your LDL cholesterol will decrease if you consume five to ten grams of soluble fibre or more daily. Kidney beans, Brussels sprouts, apples, and pears are good sources of soluble fibre.
Cholesterol is essential for bodily functions, yet its levels differ by age, weight, and gender. However, high total cholesterol, high “bad” cholesterol, or low “good” cholesterol might make you more prone to heart disease. These risks may worsen if you smoke, drink alcohol, don’t eat a heart-healthy diet, or have a family history of high cholesterol.
As a result, doctors advise that people over 20 have their cholesterol levels checked every five years. However, remember that cholesterol levels are not a complete picture; it’s only one part of the story. Your doctor will also look at other aspects of your health to determine more about your heart conditions.
The expert coaches at HealthifyMe clearly understand the cholesterol-related effects of diet and lifestyle. You can connect with them and get personalised guidance to create a diet and exercise plan that meets your specific cholesterol requirements.
You can use HealthifyPro and its most recent version, HealthifyPro 2.0, to determine which foods are good for you, what lifestyle modifications you need, and how much exercise you should do. Additionally, you can opt for a customised diet and fitness plan to help you reach your weight goal and control obesity-related cholesterol through the premium plan services.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. How to check cholesterol levels at home?
A. Home cholesterol kits make it convenient to check cholesterol at home. Testing kits involve a lancet for pricking a finger and a test strip to get a blood sample. People should place the blood on this test strip and can mail the sample to a lab for testing or place the testing strip into an electronic metre at home to get results. Test kits may vary in price depending on whether they measure total cholesterol only or LDL, HDL, and triglycerides. Follow all directions or consult a health professional for guidance.
Q. What is a dangerous cholesterol level?
A. A person with a total cholesterol level of more than 240 mg/dL, LDL levels above 160 mg/dL and HDL levels below 40 mg/dL is considered at high risk of developing heart disease. Unfortunately, high cholesterol has no symptoms. The only way to detect it is via blood tests or lipid panels.
Q. How to maintain cholesterol level?
A. The body needs cholesterol for many essential physiological functions, but when cholesterol levels are out of control, they can clog arteries and lead to heart disease. Changing your lifestyle is the first line of treatment to bring your cholesterol to a safe level.
Consuming unsaturated fats, soluble fibre, and plant sterols can increase HDL-C and decrease LDL-C. Reduce your alcohol and tobacco consumption, and lose weight if you are overweight. When people exercise, their HDL levels rise, which removes LDL cholesterol from the blood.Consuming foods and supplements, like soy and green tea, can help lower overall cholesterol.
Q. Do cholesterol levels change daily?
A. External or internal conditions sometimes cause sudden increases in blood cholesterol. It may include caffeine intake, smoking, and physiological stress. A cholesterol test shows the variations in blood cholesterol levels throughout the day, but the variance isn’t so significant. In a single day, it might change by 8 %.
Q. When are cholesterol levels high?
A. If you are 19 or younger, your total cholesterol levels should be less than 170 mg/dL. If you are 20 or older, your total cholesterol should be less than 200 mg/dL. A reading of more than 240 mg/dL is very high.
Q. How often should you get your cholesterol levels checked?
A. According to CDC recommendations, most healthy adults should have their cholesterol checked every 5 years. However, people with diabetes, heart disease, or a family history of high blood cholesterol need to check their cholesterol more often.
Q. How to bring down high cholesterol levels?
A. To reduce your cholesterol, try to cut down on fatty foods, saturated fat-rich foods like dairy products and processed foods. Instead, consuming soluble fibre such as oatmeal, kidney beans, and sprouts can reduce cholesterol absorption into your bloodstream. Consuming heart-healthy foods along with regular exercising, losing weight, and quitting smoking and alcohol can all speed up this process.
Q. How to test cholesterol levels in the blood?
A. The blood cholesterol test requires a simple blood test. This cholesterol test checks the bloodstream’s LDL, HDL, and triglyceride levels. You can also get a home test kit.
Q. Will coconut oil increase cholesterol levels?
A. Coconut oil is excess has been shown to raise cholesterol levels more than other plant-based oils like olive or canola. It contains about 90% saturated fat, which raises “bad” LDL cholesterol levels that increase the risk of heart diseases like stroke and heart attack. However, coconut oil when consumed in low to minimum quantities has proven to be beneficial for overall health and wellbeing.
Q. What raises LDL cholesterol levels?
A. High LDL cholesterol levels can result from saturated fats in red meat, fried foods, butter, cheese, baked goods, and other full-fat dairy products. An unhealthy lifestyle, your genes (family history) and some medicines can also contribute to high LDL. Keeping LDL cholesterol levels low is important because it lowers the risk of heart disease and stroke. The recommended LDL level should be less than 100 mg/dL.