Total Cholesterol: What it is, Normal Values, and What to do When High or Down

Total Cholesterol: What it is, Normal Values, and What to do When High or Down. What should I do if my total cholesterol is high? What helps lower total cholesterol? What happens if the cholesterol level drops? What are the 5 foods that lower cholesterol? You can find the answers to the questions and all the questions about Total cholesterol normal range, ldl normal range, hdl normal range, total cholesterol calculator, 209 ldl cholesterol in the continuation of our article…

What is Total Cholesterol?

Total cholesterol regulates the formation of many hormones (including sex hormones) and is part of the composition of various tissues, including the cell membranes of vital organs such as the brain and liver.

Because the molecule is not soluble in water, it is possible for it to travel within the bloodstream in the form of two main lipoproteins: HDL (also called “good”) and LDL (“bad”).

These designations are derived from the fact that while HDL is responsible for cleaning the arteries by transporting fats from the periphery to the liver, LDL travels in the opposite direction. Contrary to what is normally believed, only a small portion (about 20 percent) comes from the food we ingest.

However, a diet low in saturated fat is the best way to prevent high levels of “bad” cholesterol that can cause major health problems such as heart attack or stroke.

Total cholesterol: what is it and why measure it?

Cholesterol is a type of lipid that the liver produces naturally. Medically, its value in the blood is called “cholesterolemia.”

It is vital for the formation of cell membranes, some hormones and vitamin D.
It does not dissolve in water, so it cannot travel alone through the blood, which is why the liver produces lipoproteins, which are particles made up of fat and protein.

The two main forms of lipoproteins are low-density (LDL) and high-density (HDL). If your blood contains too much LDL cholesterol, you may be diagnosed with dyslipidemia, which, without treatment, can lead to many health problems such as heart attack and stroke.

High cholesterol rarely causes symptoms at first, which is why it is important to check its levels regularly.

Is cholesterol good or bad?

The one incorporated in LDL lipoproteins is also called “bad cholesterol” because it transports fats from the liver to all the cells in the body, especially around the blood vessels where they are stored, causing atherosclerosis and other diseases associated with the cardiovascular system.

If you’re interested in this topic, check out our in-depth look at LDL cholesterol.

In contrast, the cholesterol incorporated in HDL is also called “good cholesterol” because it prevents the process of atheromatous plaque formation by transporting excess fats to the liver, where they are processed and eliminated from the body.

Blood test: how total cholesterol is measured and how it works

To detect total cholesterol values, family physicians or specialists recommend specific blood tests, such as a lipid profile. A blood sample will therefore be taken from a vein in the arm, enough to fill a small test tube.

The blood samples are sent to a laboratory for analysis. The sample is taken on an empty stomach (at least 8 hours fasting), and as you get older, your doctor may recommend checking your total cholesterol (as well as other important health indicators, such as blood pressure) annually.

This is especially indicated if you have certain risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as:

  • Obesity.
  • Smoking.
  • Family history of cardiovascular disease.

What are the normal values of total cholesterol?

The level varies from person to person and is not always influenced by diet. However, a check of blood fat levels is often indicated by one’s family physician or specialist as a prevention of acute cardiovascular events.

The test involves taking a small sample of venous blood, and the results are usually available after a few days. The required investigation is called a “lipid profile” and, when processed, contains the following information:

Total cholesterol: an estimate of the total lipids in the patient’s blood.
Triglycerides: another type of fat in the blood.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL cholesterol): this is the “good” cholesterol that protects against cardiovascular disease.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol): this is “bad” cholesterol and an important contributor to the narrowing and clogging of important arteries in the body (such as those in the heart or those in the brain).

In the case of adults, values can be specified as:

Below 200 mg/dl are considered desirable values (an optimal threshold) for adults.

  • A value between 200 and 239 mg/dl of total cholesterol is considered borderline-high (borderline).
  • Total cholesterol value of 240 mg/dl or above this threshold is considered high.
  • Values for children

Total cholesterol values, on the other hand, include:

  • An acceptable total cholesterol level is less than 170 mg/dl.
  • Borderline-high total cholesterol ranges between 170 and 199 mg/dl.
  • Any total cholesterol value above 200 mg/dl in a child is considered too high.

Other age-based recommendations include:

  • All persons 19 years of age or younger: total cholesterol should be no higher than 170 mg/dl.
  • Women 20 years and older: total cholesterol should be between 125-200 mg/dl.
  • Men 20 years and older: total cholesterol is good between 125-200 mg/dl; serum total cholesterol.

When are total cholesterol values dangerous?

Cholesterol becomes our “enemy” if its level in the blood rises, especially if it is LDL lipoprotein (bad cholesterol). The most common risk factors are:

Sedentary lifestyle.
Foods high in animal fats, processed foods and margarines.
Age (men over 45 and women over 55).
Heredity (familial dyslipidemia).
Knowing blood cholesterol level becomes essential to estimate cardiovascular risk (coronary heart disease, myocardial infarction or stroke).

Prevention mainly means adopting a healthy lifestyle in terms of diet and regular exercise, and in some cases, drug treatment with statins may be recommended.

High cholesterolemia: causes and symptoms

Very often, lifestyle is the main cause of high cholesterol levels. Our bodies naturally produce all the LDL they need, and a diet high in saturated fats, along with low physical activity contribute to higher blood lipid levels.

In general then, factors that can negatively affect total cholesterol include:

  • Diet high in sugar products, saturated fat or white (refined) flour.
  • Lack of physical activity.
  • Smoking (active or passive).
  • Obesity.

Finally, in some cases, heredity may play an important role among the causes of dyslipidemia, and some people inherit genes from their mother, father or even grandparents. Thus, analyzing the various causes, we can recall:

Symptoms of high cholesterol

High total cholesterol itself does not cause symptoms, however, it can increase the risk of developing some serious conditions.

One exception is that people who have very high blood cholesterol may show some signs, such as xanthomas (fatty deposits in the lower eyelid of the eye).

High values in the lipid profile, if not treated in time, can lead to serious complications such as heart attack and stroke. It is recommended that men over the age of 35 and women over the age of 45 be screened annually for conditions caused by blood lipid levels.

Adults who are at average risk of developing coronary artery disease (ischemic heart disease) should have their total cholesterol levels checked starting at age 18.

More frequent blood tests may be necessary if initial results had been shown to be abnormal, or if you already have coronary artery disease, are taking cholesterol-lowering drugs, or are at risk for ischemic heart disease due to the presence of:

  • Family history of hypercholesterolemia or myocardial infarction.
  • Overweight.
  • Sedentary lifestyle.
  • Diabetes.
  • High-fat diet.
  • Smoking.
  • Male gender over 45 or female gender over 55.

Patients with a personal history of myocardial infarction or stroke need regular testing of total cholesterol levels so that the physician can monitor the effectiveness of the treatment they are receiving.

Examples of patients include those diagnosed with coronary artery disease, a stroke or mini-stroke (TIA), or peripheral artery disease. The same applies to those who have a family history of relatives who suffered from early cardiovascular disease or hereditary hypercholesterolemia.

Finally, those with hypertension, diabetes, or another condition that can raise total cholesterol levels are considered at risk.

Low cholesterolemia: causes and symptoms

Cholesterol problems are usually associated with high values. This is because, according to science, sufferers are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

It is a fatty substance that can clog arteries and potentially cause a heart attack or stroke by interfering with blood flow through the affected vessel. Conversely, it is possible for cholesterol to be too low, but this is much less common than high values.

Just as an above-threshold LDL is strongly associated with heart disease, low cholesterol can be a factor in other medical conditions such as cancer, depression, and anxiety. Scientists are still trying to learn more about the connection between low cholesterol and health risks.

There is no consensus on how to define LDL values, but it would be considered very low if below 40 milligrams per deciliter of blood.

Although risks are rare, very low cholesterol levels may be associated with an increased risk of:

  • Neoplasia.
  • Hemorrhagic stroke.
  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Preterm delivery.
  • Low weight of the unborn child.

Cholesterol and cardiovascular risks: what to eat to prevent

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the world. Having high levels of cholesterol, particularly “bad” LDL, is linked to an increased risk of heart disease.

Low “good” HDL cholesterol and high triglycerides are also linked to increased risk.

Because diet has a powerful effect on cholesterol, here are 10 foods that can lower its values:

  • Legumes.
  • Avocados.
  • Dried fruits.
  • Oily fish.
  • Whole-grain cereals.
  • Extra virgin olive oil.
  • Tea.
  • Soybeans.
  • Cocoa.
  • Red fruits.

If you are interested in this topic, check out our in-depth look at the diet for high cholesterol.

How to lower cholesterol: sports and lifestyle

High cholesterol is a buildup of excess cholesterol in the bloodstream. A healthy lifestyle can help patients with high levels reduce LDL while preserving themselves from the risk of cardiovascular disease.

It is important for these patients to follow medical recommendations and therapeutic prescriptions in addition to taking the following steps.

Weight control.
Since the patient with hypercholesterolemia is often overweight, it is very important to get rid of extra kilograms.

Particularly important for individuals with multiple risk factors, along with the value of triglycerides and HDL, we find the abdominal circumference, which is an important figure for the deposition of adipose that produces health-threatening hormones.

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