High cholesterol is a common health issue that affects nearly 94 million adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is often referred to as a silent killer because there are no symptoms. A simple blood test can indicate if your levels are too high, so having annual checkups with your physician is always recommended. If left untreated, high cholesterol can cause major health complications like stroke, heart disease, diabetes and more. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Sean Marchese, MS, RN, a registered nurse at The Mesothelioma Center with a background in oncology clinical trials and over 15 years of direct patient care experience who explains what number is too high for cholesterol. Please consult your physician for medical advice. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
Marchese tells us, “Your body uses cholesterol for three primary purposes: to create hormones, build cells for healthy tissue and help create bile in the liver. Cholesterol is a lipoprotein, which is a compound of fat and protein. You get cholesterol from the food you eat, but your body also supplies an amount of cholesterol from the liver.”
Marchese explains, “Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, negatively affects the body overall. LDL can create plaque called atherosclerosis in vital arteries, speeding up the effects of cardiovascular disease and increasing the risk of blood clots. High-density lipoprotein, or HDL, is essential for clearing LDL levels and reducing the impact of ‘bad’ cholesterol.”
Marchese says, “Several factors contribute to high cholesterol levels. The most significant effect on cholesterol is diet. An unhealthy diet high in saturated fats, such as butter, fatty meats, and cheeses, can significantly increase cholesterol. Diabetes and hypertension are also pretty common conditions that raise cholesterol levels. Evidence suggests a family history of heart disease or stroke can also contribute to high cholesterol.”
According to Marchese, “Healthy cholesterol levels should be five millimoles per liter of blood (mmol/L) for adults without a history of high cholesterol. People at-risk for high cholesterol should aim for four mmol/L or less total cholesterol. LDL should be kept below two or three mmol/L, and HDL should be greater than one mmol/L to decrease the risk of heart disease. You can lower your cholesterol levels by maintaining a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and low in fatty or processed foods. You should also maintain healthy activity levels and avoid smoking.”
John Hopkins Medicine gives the following guidelines for cholesterol.
“Normal: Less than 200 mg/dL
Borderline high: 200 to 239 mg/dL
High: At or above 240 mg/dL
These are the adult ranges for LDL cholesterol:
Optimal: Less than 100 mg/dL (This is the goal for people with diabetes or heart disease.)
Near optimal: 100 to 129 mg/dL
Borderline high: 130 to 159 mg/dL
High: 160 to 189 mg/dL
Very high: 190 mg/dL and higher”
Marchese says, “High cholesterol levels can lead to peripheral arterial disease (PAD) or transient ischemic attacks (TIA) due to areas of narrowed blood vessels and blood clots caused by decreased blood flow. If left untreated, these issues can progress to coronary artery disease, heart attack and stroke. In severe cases, patients may need surgery to remove the plaque build-up from arteries.”