You don’t build good heart health in a day. It takes a conscious effort to have a healthy heart, which majorly comes from our food choices and our lifestyle habits. You have to start when you are young to make those small changes that will have a bigger impact when you are older. This particularly makes sense in reference to high cholesterol. Learning what is considered good cholesterol levels by age is a great place to begin.
What Is Cholesterol?
Simply put, cholesterol is a fatty substance produced by your liver. Aside from the one produced by the liver, cholesterol is also found in certain foods. Your liver produces cholesterol because your body needs it to function properly. However, there is good and bad cholesterol and too much of the bad cholesterol (also known as Low-Density Lipoprotein or LDL) increases the risk of serious health complications such as stroke, high blood pressure and heart attack.
When there is too much cholesterol in your bloodstream, it can lead to the formation of plaque. The plaque form blocks the walls of the arteries, a condition known as atherosclerosis. It can also cause a reduction in the flow of blood to the heart, thus increasing the risk of heart problems. There might also be a reduction in the flow of blood to the brain, which might ultimately cause a stroke. The Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC) has established the fact that high cholesterol levels can increase the risk of heart diseases.
How Is Cholesterol Measured?
Lipid profile or lipid panel test is a simple blood test used in measuring cholesterol levels. The cholesterol level test measures cholesterol in the following categories:
- Low-density Lipoproteins (LDL)
These are known as ”bad” cholesterol. An increased level of LDL increases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases
- High-Density Lipoprotein
These are known as the “good” cholesterol as the body needs them in higher quantity and they also help to remove excess LDL from the body
Triglycerides are fats in the blood that can be converted from calories that you don’t need. You don’t need high triglycerides levels because just like LDL, they increase your risk of cardiovascular diseases.
After getting the scores for HDL, LDL and triglycerides, the total cholesterol level is then calculated by adding up the HDL and LDL plus 20% of the triglycerides score.
Cholesterol Levels For Adults
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), if you are 20 years old or above, it is recommended that you check your cholesterol level at least every 4-5 years. On the other hand, the US National Library of Medicine has recommended that women between the age of 55 to 65 and men between the age of 45 to 65 should run a cholesterol test at least every two years. The reason for this is that you become more prone to high cholesterol levels as you get older. You should note that what is considered good cholesterol level targets by age are not exactly the same. It differs depending on various factors such as genetics, medical history, lifestyle, etc. The table below will provide you with the guideline on what is considered good cholesterol levels for adults of age 20 years or older. If you have cardiovascular disease or diabetes, you will need to have a cholesterol test more regularly as the build-up of cholesterol in the walls of your artery would cause greater risk to your heart and life.
Cholesterol Levels For Children
Cholesterol level for young ones who are 19 and younger differ from that of those who are older. According to the US National Library of Medicine, children ought to have their first cholesterol test between the ages of 9 and 11 and then get tested after that, every five years.
However, factors such as a family history of heart attacks, high cholesterol or strokes should also be considered. For a child with a family history of these cardiovascular diseases, a cholesterol test should be taken around the age of 2 years.
How To Attain Good Cholesterol Levels At Any Age
Managing your cholesterol level is very important as it makes for a healthy heart in the long run. The good news is that even if your cholesterol level has been diagnosed to be high, there are many things you can do to lower it.
- Start with exercising – regularly exercising is a helpful tool for reducing cholesterol levels. Aim for at least 30 minutes of workout sessions three times a week. Opt for physical activities like biking, walking, jogging, skipping rope and jumping or other aerobic exercises of your choice
- Watch your diet – your dietary constituents, to a large extent, affect your cholesterol level. Avoid food that contains LDL cholesterol or saturated foods like full-fat dairy products and red meat. If you must consume cholesterol-high foods, chose those with HDL and healthy fats such as fish, nuts, whole grains, beans, avocados, lentils, peas and whole grains instead
- Consider prescriptions – while lifestyle and dietary changes help with managing cholesterol levels, medicine can also do wonders. Your doctor will probably prescribe medication such as Statin for you if you have a high risk of cardiovascular diseases as well
Studies have always shown that there is a link between high cholesterol and diseases such as stroke, heart attack and coronary artery diseases. If you are already at risk of these cardiovascular diseases, you must check your cholesterol levels even more regularly.
If you have already been diagnosed with high cholesterol levels, then you should take note of the dietary and lifestyle changes to help lower and attain a healthy cholesterol level.