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What are Normal Cholesterol Levels?
- Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that our bodies make in the liver. We need a small amount to keep our bodies functioning properly. Leftover cholesterol leads to artery plaque
- Cholesterol is measured in four numbers: cholesterol reading, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and triglycerides
Having your cholesterol levels checked by a physician is an important part of maintaining your health; however, you should also be aware of what normal cholesterol levels are and what you can do to ensure that your numbers stay in that area. If your numbers aren’t consistent with normal cholesterol levels, you should know about the associated risks.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that our bodies make in the liver. The substance is used by parts of our body, such as our cell walls, to create hormones and bile for food digestion and more. Without it, our body could not function properly. Unfortunately, many of the foods we eat today, such as dairy products and meat, also contain cholesterol. Since we only need a small amount to keep our bodies functioning properly, excess cholesterol remains in our blood stream. Over time that left over cholesterol can develop into a harder substance known as plague, which can build up on our artery walls.
As WebMD.com explains, cholesterol is actually measured using four numbers. The first is your overall cholesterol reading. That reading is then broken down into three others: your LDL (low density lipoproteins), HDL (high density lipoproteins), and triglycerides. Ideally, your HDL will be the highest number of the four.
Reading the Levels
The American Heart Association (AHA) provides guidelines for interpreting whether or not your readings constitute normal cholesterol levels. With your total cholesterol, you want to see a number under 200 mg/dL (milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood). That would be considered a normal cholesterol level. If your numbers are between 200 and 239 mg/dL you could be at risk for heart disease; however, your physician will need to evaluate the other numbers as well. If your total cholesterol reading is above 240 mg/dL, you will need to take action in order to bring that number down. This could mean changing your eating habits and possibly taking medication.
Most physicians also want to make sure that the other three numbers are also in good shape. Normal HDL cholesterol levels range from 40 to 50 mg/dL in men and 50 to 60 mg/dL in women. Anything less could make you vulnerable to heart disease.
LDL cholesterol levels are also taken very seriously by physicians. There is a strong correlation between high LDL numbers and an increased risk for coronary heart disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, everyone should work on getting their LDL cholesterol levels under 130 mg/dL; however, if you have diabetes, have had a heart attack, have high blood pressure, smoke, or have a history of heart disease in your family, you should take extra precautions to keep these numbers low so as to minimize your risk. Keep in mind that LDL levels over 160 mg/dL are considered high.
When it comes to triglycerides, normal levels are below150 mg/dL. Anything above 200 mg/dL is considered high and could put you at significant risk for heart disease and other disorders, which could include diabetes.
The information supplied in this article is not to be considered as medical advice and is for educational purposes only.
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