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14 marzo 2022 adminBlog0

Predominantly sedentary lifestyle trends, insufficient sleep, and poor diet are the new normal and they’re all contributing to higher cholesterol levels. This leads to inflammation and the development of cardiovascular diseases, seriously affecting your overall health and wellbeing. 

The fast-paced lives and the stressful environment we’re all participating in embrace convenience, and that’s where all the processed foods and quick solutions come in, causing more harm than good and impairing our bodies’ functions. 

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a type of fat that has a waxy substance. It’s made by the human body, but it can also come from animal foods. It’s made in the liver and its role is actually extremely important as every cell in the body needs it to form outer cell membranes. These exist to protect the cell from anything coming in or out. Cholesterol also plays a part in hormone secretion, activating bile acids needed to digest and absorb fat, and the production of vitamin D. 

Cholesterol exists in three main forms, or lipoproteins:

  • Low-density lipoprotein or LDL – the so-called “bad cholesterol”
  • High-density lipoprotein or HDL – the so-called “good cholesterol”
  • Very-low-density lipoproteins or VLDL – particles in the blood that carry triglycerides

High levels of LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream cause atherosclerosis, the formation of harmful fatty plaques that grow inside blood vessels, building up on their walls and making them narrower. This can cause poor circulation and blockages, increasing the risk of angina pectoris, heart disease, stroke, and heart attack. 

The LDL cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) with the following ranges:

  • Recommended – Under 100mg/dL
  • Normal – 100-129mg/dL
  • Borderline high – 130-159 mg/dL
  • High – 160-189 mg/dL
  • Very High -190 mg/dL and above

On the other hand, high levels of HDL cholesterol are preferred, as it helps remove other forms of cholesterol from your bloodstream. When it comes to measuring HDL, the levels are once again, displayed in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL):

  • Recommended range – 60 mg/dL or higher of blood or higher
  • Normal (usual in healthy people) – 40 to 59 mg/dL 
  • Low – HD levels under 40 mg/dL increase the risk of developing heart disease

Total Cholesterol

But, when a blood test measures total cholesterol levels, it takes both, LDL and HDL cholesterol into account. The target levels differ depending on your age and sex:

  • Men and women under the age of 19 – Less than 170 mg/dL with LDL under 110 mg/dL and HDL over 45 mg/dL
  • Men aged 20 and older – 125 mg/dL to 200 mg/dL with LDL under 100 mg/dL and HDL over 40 mg/dL
  • Women aged 20 and older – 125 mg/dL to 200 mg/dL with LDL under 100 mg/dL and HDL over 50 mg/dL

On the other hand, when measuring high levels of cholesterol, there’s even more discrepancy when it comes to age and sex:

  1. Men and women under the age of 19
  • Borderline: 170-199 mg/dL with LDL 110-129 mg/dL
  • High: 200 mg/dL and above with LDL 130 mg/dL and above
  1. Men aged 20 and older 
  • Borderline: 200-239 mg/dL with LDL 130-159 mg/dL
  • High: 240 mg/dL and above with LDL 160 mg/dL and above
  1. Women aged 20 and older 
  • Borderline: 200-239 mg/dL with LDL 130-159 mg/dL
  • High: 240 mg/dL and above with LDL 160 mg/dL and above

Generally speaking, if a person doesn’t suffer from heart or blood vessel disease, and he or she isn’t at high risk for developing any kind of heart disease or type 2 diabetes, the optimal total cholesterol number is less than 100 mg/dL.

However, if the person does have heart or blood vessel disease, type 2 diabetes, or a variety of other risk factors, the optimal number would actually be lower than 70 mg/dL. 

The Factors That Increase Cholesterol Levels

The most common factors that bring those levels up are lifestyle routines that your daily life consists of, and they include:

  • Poor diet consisting of ultra-processed foods, trans fats, and saturated fats
  • Malnutrition
  • Sedentary lifestyle and lack of exercise
  • Insufficient sleep 
  • Smoking and excessive alcohol abuse
  • Obesity and being overweight
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Certain medications
  • Genetic disorders (familial hypercholesterolemia)

Most of these factors can be controlled and reversed by cleaning up your diet, paying more attention to developing better sleeping habits, increasing your level of activity, limiting your alcohol and cigarette use, as well as managing your stress and weight, maintaining a healthy body mass index (BMI).

Can Total Cholesterol be High Due to High HDL?

Since having high levels of HDL is preferred, is there a possibility of having “high risk” total cholesterol levels even though your LDL is low?  

Total cholesterol levels can indeed be high with your LDL cholesterol numbers in range, and in that case, they’re not posing a risk to heart disease. However, HDL levels shouldn’t exceed 116 mg/dL for men and 135 mg/dL for women, and extremely high levels of HDL cholesterol can be due to genetics. 

Triglycerides

When talking about cholesterol, it’s also important to mention triglycerides since their levels are often measured together and they can severely impact your cardiovascular health as much as LDL.

Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in our bodies and they come from the foods we eat. They’re also the type of fat your body stores when your caloric expenditure is lower than your calorie intake, making you gain weight. Having a high level of triglycerides can seriously raise your risk of high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, stroke, heart attack, and heart diseases, such as coronary artery disease.

The factors that contribute to high triglyceride levels include:

  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Certain medications
  • Genetic disorders
  • Liver or kidney disorders
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Thyroid diseases

Triglycerides are usually tested with your cholesterol levels and also measured in milligrams per deciliters (mg/dL):

  • Normal levels – less than 150mg/dL
  • Borderline High – 150-199 mg/dL
  • High – 200-499 mg/dL
  • Very High – 500 mg/dL and above

Final Thoughts

Cholesterol levels are one of the most important measurements of your overall health and longevity, and unfortunately, the numbers are drastically increasing. With poor lifestyle choices, processed foods, lack of physical activity, and high levels of stress, it’s no wonder we’re getting sicker and more inflamed as the years go by. 

Fortunately, bringing your cholesterol levels down to a normal range is mostly under your control. Change your diet, increase your daily steps, implement a good sleeping routine, and you’re already on a great path towards keeping your cholesterol in balance, and with it, preventing heart disease. 

Normal Total cholesterol levels:

  • Men and women under the age of 19 – Less than 170 mg/dL with LDL under 110 mg/dL and HDL over 45 mg/dL
  • Men aged 20 and older – 125 mg/dL to 200 mg/dL with LDL under 100 mg/dL and HDL over 40 mg/dL
  • Women aged 20 and older – 125 mg/dL to 200 mg/dL with LDL under 100 mg/dL and HDL over 50 mg/dL

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