The narrative is in the numbers – 95 million adults have cholesterol levels higher than 200 mg/dL, while 29 million have levels higher than 240 mg/dL. To compound this further, high cholesterol levels do not present any symptoms. In plain speak, this means you will never know if your cholesterol levels are at recommended levels or at levels that require medical intervention. CDC data reveals that a little more than half of the adults with high cholesterol levels are on medications to maintain cholesterol at recommended levels. This indicates that a significant percentage (almost half) of those with high cholesterol levels are not on medication.

The right view and interpretation of charts makes all the difference to health

A common problem reported across various lifestyle/genetic related ailments is the wrong view and erroneous interpretation of data. Most individuals assume that a common standard applies for all. For instance, the common man wrongly considers that normal heart beat rates are the same for all. While there is an overlap of rates between genders, the heartbeat range differs across groups and genders, with its own medical interpretation.

Similarly, it is the subtext in cholesterol level readings that are equally important. Do you know how to read and interpret cholesterol readings? Though it is the job of medical professionals, it certainly helps to understand simple readings and use this awareness to turn healthier. The readings are not complicated, and pretty simple.

How you need to read your report

You need to look at four readings in your report to get an idea. The report from a blood test (lipoprotein panel) will typically display Total Cholesterol, HDL Cholesterol, LDL Cholesterol, and Total Cholesterol/HDL ratio.

Total Cholesterol – This refers to the total cholesterol in your blood and includes the HDL (high Density Lipoprotein), the LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) and Triglycerides Levels.

The ideal total cholesterol levels is the same for both genders. Similarly the borderline and high risk total cholesterol levels are also the same for both genders.

Cholesterol Levels for Males/Females

Low Ideal Borderline High Risk
Less than 180 mg/dL 180 – 199 mg/dL 200 – 239 mg/dL 240 or more mg/dL

HDL Cholesterol – This refers to the High Density Lipoproteins that are popularly called as “good” cholesterol. It moves the excess cholesterol from the arteries to the liver, from where it is flushed out of the body. High HDL levels are an indication of good health as it means that your risk of heart attack and stroke are lowered. The readings differ for both genders.

HDL Cholesterol Levels for Males/Females

Gender High Levels Ideal Borderline High Risk
Male 50 mg/dL or more 45 – 49 mg/dL 35 – 44 mg/dL 34 mg/dL or less
Female 60 mg/dL or more 55 – 59 mg/dL 40 – 54 mg/dL 39 mg/dL or less

What impacts HDL Cholesterol Levels?

The effort to ensure high HDL Levels is affected mainly by lifestyle. For instance, lack of adequate exercise, smoking, and being overweight are factors that make it difficult to ensure high HDL Levels. Another important factor is the genetic angle.

LDL Cholesterol – This refers to the Low Density Lipoproteins that are commonly known as “bad” cholesterol. Higher amounts of LDL in the blood can result in cholesterol lodging on the artery walls as plaques. This gradually narrows the vessels and reduces the flow of blood to/from the heart, raising the risk of heart disease/stroke. Low HDL levels are an indication of good health as it means that your risk of heart attack and stroke are lowered. The readings are the same for both genders.

LDL Cholesterol Levels for Males/Females

Low Ideal Borderline High Risk
Less than 100 mg/dL 100 – 129 mg/dL 130 – 159 mg/dL 160 or more mg/dL

What impacts LDL Cholesterol Levels?

The effort to ensure low HDL Levels is affected mainly by your diet, and can be controlled through a combination of medication and dietary changes. For instance, you need to cut down on the amount of trans fat (trans fatty acid) and saturated fat in your food. High levels of trans fat/saturated fat are typically attributed to baked food products, pizza, sausages, hot dogs, bacon, French fries (fried in saturated/hydrogenated oil) and fried chicken with the skin etc.

Total Cholesterol/HDL Ratio – This refers to the ratio of the total cholesterol and the HDL. You can get this figure by dividing the total cholesterol levels with the HDL levels. This is considered to be a good indicator of risk of heart attack in individuals. Higher ratios indicate higher risk levels of heart disease. The readings differ for both genders.

Total Cholesterol/HDL Cholesterol Ratio for Males/Females

 

Gender Low Ratio Ideal Borderline High Risk
Male 4.0 or less 4.1 – 5.0 5.1 – 6.5 6.6 or more
Female 3.3 or less 3.4 – 4.5 4.6 – 6.5 6.6 or more

Depending on your gender and the readings, you need to take suitable medication and bring about changes in your lifestyle/dietary habits to control and maintain your cholesterol levels and the total cholesterol/HDL cholesterol ratio.

Important information that will keep you better informed of your risk levels

Did you know that high cholesterol levels can be attributed to inherited conditions? Are you aware that screening is recommended once in four years? Not only does this help you track the condition, it actually helps you to take up timely/pre-emptive measures to rein in your cholesterol levels.

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