Cholesterol is found in your body. It helps make cells and performs other functions.

When levels of LDL cholesterol are too high, it can be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Higher levels of good cholesterol are beneficial for cardiovascular health.

A simple blood test can tell you your cholesterol levels. The results of cholesterol tests can help determine if you need to take medication or change your lifestyle to bring your cholesterol levels in line.

“Let’s take a closer look at cholesterol levels, what’s considered a healthy range, and what you can do to help lower cholesterol”

The two main types of cholesterol are low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL).

The bad type of cholesterol is called LDL because it forms plaques in the arteries. This can make it harder for blood to flow.

The main job of the good cholesterol is to escort the bad cholesterol out of your body.

Cholesterol levels are measured by a standard lipid profile blood test in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). When you have your cholesterol checked, your blood test should include your:

  • The levels of cholesterol.
  • The levels of the good cholesterol.
  • triglycerides, a type of fat that stores excess calories
  • Your total cholesterol includes your LDL and HDL levels.

A cholesterol test is recommended every 1 to 2 years for:

  • Men are 35 and up.
  • Women 45 and up are at increased cardiovascular risk.

Younger adults should get a cholesterol test every 5 years.

Keeping your cholesterol levels in a healthy range is one way to lower your risk of atherosclerosis, a condition in which plaques narrow the arteries and reduce blood flow to organs and tissue throughout the body. Atherosclerosis is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke.

The National Institutes of Health recommends the following cholesterol levels based on your age and gender.

Recommended levels for people age 20 or older

  • LDL: less than 100mg/dL
  • HDL: 40mg/dL or higher (for men); 50mg/dL or higher (for women)
  • Triglycerides: less than 150 mg/dL
  • Total cholesterol: 125 to 200mg/dL

Recommended levels for people age 19 or younger

  • LDL: less than 100 mg/dL
  • HDL: greater than 45 mg/d
  • Triglycerides: less than 150 mg/dL
  • Total cholesterol: less than 170mg/dL

Your cholesterol levels are affected by genetics, dietary choices, and lifestyle factors like:

  • A sedentary lifestyle.
  • smoking
  • consuming too much alcohol.
  • Carrying excess weight.

For some people, lifestyle changes can be enough to bring cholesterol levels into the healthy range, according to a 2019 study.

Changes to lifestyle to lower cholesterol are often included.

  • getting at least 30 to 45 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise most days of the week
  • following a heart-healthy diet that’s low in saturated fat
  • If you carry too much weight, you will lose it.
  • Smoking can cause arteries to be hardened and increase the risk of cholesterol plaque formation.
  • Keeping stress levels under control may increase cholesterol.

When is cholesterol medication needed?

If lifestyle changes don’t help lower your cholesterol, your doctor may consider prescribing medication.

The American Heart Association (AHA) suggests that a statin is the most effective means of lowering The levels of cholesterol.. This medication interferes with cholesterol production in your liver.

Other medications can bring down the levels of LDL.

For individuals with specific risk factors for cardiovascular disease, the AHA and American College of Cardiology have specific guidelines for when cholesterol levels should trigger the use of statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

The guidelines are according to them.

  • If you are considered to be at high risk for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease and have high levels of LDL, you should consider adding the medication ezetimibe to your statin regimen.
  • Individuals with high levels of LDL should consider using statins. If that fails to bring LDL levels below 100, the addition of ezetimibe to statin therapy should be considered.
  • If you have type 2 diabetes, you should start statin therapy if you have high levels of LDL.

Your cholesterol levels are a good indicator of your cardiovascular health and your risk profile for heart attack and stroke. A blood test can easily check your cholesterol levels.

The test results can be used to determine if interventions are needed to bring cholesterol levels into a healthy range.

If you have questions about your risk for a heart attack or other health issues, talk to your doctor about whether you need to make lifestyle changes or take medication to lower your risks.