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  • Writer's pictureDr. Karuturi Subrahmanyam

Normal Cholesterol Levels

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is found in your blood and in some foods. Your body needs some cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help you digest food. However, too much cholesterol can be harmful, as it can build up in your arteries and increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.

There are two main types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). LDL is often called “bad” cholesterol because it can clog your arteries and cause plaque formation. HDL is often called “good” cholesterol because it can help remove excess cholesterol from your blood and protect your heart.

Your total cholesterol level is the sum of your LDL and HDL cholesterol, plus a fraction of another type of fat called triglycerides. Triglycerides are also involved in plaque formation and can raise your risk of heart disease if they are too high.

Normal cholesterol levels vary by age and sex. Generally, you want to have a low LDL level, a high HDL level, and a low triglyceride level. For adults, the normal range for total cholesterol is less than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), for LDL cholesterol is less than 100 mg/dL, for HDL cholesterol is 40 mg/dL or higher for men and 50 mg/dL or higher for women, and for triglycerides is less than 150 mg/dL. For children, the normal range for total cholesterol is less than 170 mg/dL, for LDL cholesterol is less than 110 mg/dL, for HDL cholesterol is 45 mg/dL or higher, and for triglycerides is less than 75 mg/dL.

It is important to check your cholesterol levels regularly, especially if you have risk factors such as family history, smoking, diabetes, obesity, or high blood pressure. You can get a blood test to measure your cholesterol levels at your doctor’s office or at a lab. The test usually requires fasting for 9 to 12 hours before the blood sample is taken.

If your cholesterol levels are too high, you may need to make some lifestyle changes or take medication to lower them. Some of the ways to lower your cholesterol levels are:

  • Eating a healthy diet that is low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol, and high in fiber, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish, and lean protein.

  • Exercising regularly for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.

  • Losing weight if you are overweight or obese.

  • Quitting smoking if you smoke.

  • Limiting alcohol intake to no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.

  • Taking prescribed medication as directed by your doctor.

Lowering your cholesterol levels can help prevent or delay the development of heart disease and stroke, and improve your overall health and well-being. Talk to your doctor about your cholesterol levels and what you can do to keep them in a normal range.

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