Cholesterol levels vary according to age, weight and gender. Over time, a person’s body tends to produce more cholesterol, which means all adults should check their cholesterol levels regularly, ideally every 4 to 6 years or so.
Cholesterol is measured in three categories:
– total cholesterol
– LDL, or “bad cholesterol”.
– HDL, or “good cholesterol”.
For most people, the struggle is balancing these levels. While total and LDL cholesterol levels should be kept low, higher HDL cholesterol levels may offer some protection against heart disease, including heart attacks and strokes.
Cholesterol and age
It is important to balance cholesterol early in life because unmanaged cholesterol in old age is difficult to treat.
Cholesterol levels tend to increase with age. Doctors recommend taking steps earlier in life to prevent dangerously high cholesterol levels from developing with age. Years of uncontrolled cholesterol can be much harder to deal with. Children are the least likely to have high cholesterol and only need to have their levels checked once or twice before they turn 18. However, if the child has risk factors for high cholesterol, they should be checked more frequently.
Generally, men tend to have higher cholesterol levels throughout their lives than women. A man’s cholesterol level generally increases with age. However, women are not immune to high cholesterol. A woman’s cholesterol often increases as she goes through menopause.
Recommended cholesterol levels
Cholesterol levels do not vary much in the average adult. The variation in recommended levels tends to change due to other health conditions and considerations.
A total cholesterol level below 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) is considered desirable for adults. A level between 200 and 239 mg/dL is considered borderline high and a level of 240 mg/dL and above is considered high.
The LDL cholesterol level should be below 100 mg/dL. Levels of 100 to 129 mg/dL are acceptable for people without medical conditions. But may be more of a concern for people with heart disease or risk factors for heart disease. A level of 130 to 159 mg/dL is borderline acceptable and a level of 160 to 189 mg/dL is high. A value of 190 mg/dL or more is considered very high.
HDL levels should be kept higher. A level below 40 mg/dL is considered a major risk factor for heart disease. A value between 41 mg/dL and 59 mg/dL is considered a low limit. The optimal reading for HDL levels is 60 mg/dL or higher.
In comparison, the acceptable levels of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in children are different.
An acceptable range of total cholesterol for a child is below 170 mg/dL. A borderline acceptable total cholesterol level for a child is between 170 and 199 mg/dL. Any total cholesterol value above 200 in a child is too high.
A child’s LDL cholesterol level should also be lower than that of an adult. The optimal LDL cholesterol range for a child is below 110 mg/dL. The borderline rate is 110 to 129 mg/dL while the high rate is greater than 130 mg/dL.
Tips for controlling your cholesterol levels
For children and adults, a healthy diet and regular exercise help keep cholesterol levels under control. The best recommendation for controlling cholesterol levels is to lead a healthy and active lifestyle. This involves a healthy diet and plenty of exercise.
Sedentary, overweight children who eat a diet high in processed foods are most likely to have high cholesterol. Children who have a family history of high cholesterol may also be at risk.
All adults should stay active and follow regular exercise programs. Postmenopausal women and adults with high cholesterol may consider changing their lifestyle and diet.
High cholesterol at any age puts a person at risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. These risks only increase over time. Especially for adults who don’t take steps to reduce their cholesterol buildup.