Protecting Your Heart: What is a Healthy Cholesterol Level for You?

There's no question about it, maintaining healthy cholesterol levels is essential for heart health. Out of control cholesterol is one of the most significant risk factors for heart attack, heart disease and stroke.

According to the National Institutes of Health, age is a major risk factor for high cholesterol. High blood cholesterol does not cause symptoms. Thus, it is essential for both men and women to closely monitor both their cholesterol levels to prevent themselves from developing heart problems at an early age.

National Guidelines for Cholesterol Levels

Cholesterol is measured in milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood (mg/dL), and the body houses two types of cholesterol – "good" cholesterol (HDL) and "bad" cholesterol (LDL). HDL helps protect your heart by removing the LDL from your blood, thus preventing LDL buildup in arteries. HDL levels above 60 mg/dL are indicators of a healthy heart and are associated with a lower risk for heart disease.

Cholesterol: What the numbers mean

What is a dangerous cholesterol level?

Too much cholesterol – good or bad – can be harmful to the heart. High blood cholesterol can lead to "hardening of the arteries" and over time cause blood flow to and from the heart to slow down or become blocked. A person is considered at high risk for developing heart disease if their total cholesterol level is higher than 240 mg/dL, LDL levels are higher than 160 mg/dL (190 mg/dL is even higher risk), and if the HDL level is below 40 mg/dL.

When is it time to see a doctor?

If your cholesterol level is dangerously high, you may be putting yourself at greater risk for developing heart disease and having a stroke. These risks are escalated for certain individuals based on other factors, such as diet and family history, so it is important for one to know how these factors affect your risk of developing heart disease.

If you or someone you know has high cholesterol levels, or has a family history of heart disease, encourage them to see a doctor to help protect their heart and to start making positive changes towards a healthier lifestyle.

Healthy ways to lower cholesterol

Achieving healthy cholesterol levels may seem tricky, but it is not impossible. The best way to reach these cholesterol goals is to make healthy lifestyle changes such as:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Eliminating fatty foods
  • Becoming active and exercising daily (even for just 30 minutes)

If you're worried about your heart disease or risk factors like high cholesterol, schedule an appointment with a cardiologist today.

About this Blog

The Penn Heart and Vascular blog provides the latest information on heart disease prevention, nutrition and breakthroughs in cardiovascular care.

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