What is a Cholesterol Chart?

Cholesterol is a necessary lipid that is important to the structure of cells and regularly circulates in the blood. It is a waxy lipid that can enter the body from outside sources but is also naturally produced by the liver.

Cholesterol is essential for stable cell membranes and only becomes a problem when there is too much LDL or low density lipoprotein cholesterol. HDL or high density lipoprotein is a type of lipid higher in protein and lower in cholesterol that actually removes excess cholesterol by returning it to the liver for processing and excretion. LDL cholesterol, which has a much lower ratio of protein to cholesterol, collects in arteries and causes the narrowing of arteries and the slowing of blood flow. This causes serious heart risks such as stroke and heart disease.

Cholesterol Charts Explained

The liver already produces about 80% of the body’s cholesterol. Outside sources such as dairy, poultry, eggs, and meat have to be watched for their saturated fat and trans fat content. These two types of fats actually cause the liver to produce even more cholesterol than usual. Cholesterol levels can be found through a blood test and are computed as the sum of LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and 20% of triglycerides (the fats bound with cholesterol at the time formation in the liver). It is important to keep LDL levels low and HDL levels high. Cholesterol charts help show the breakdown of healthy overall cholesterol as well as HDL and LDL levels.

A cholesterol chart will at a minimum show the levels of risk associated with total cholesterol level. However, many will show how the specific HDL, LDL and triglyceride levels factor into the cholesterol risk level. For overall cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides, the lower the number the better. It is important to remember than when it comes to HDL, the number the better.

What is a Normal Cholesterol Level?

Cholesterol is measured in units of milligrams (mg) per deciliter (dL) of blood. It is optimal to keep the overall cholesterol level to less than 200, and less than half of that should come from LDL cholesterol. While keeping LDL levels under 130 will keep one away from serious risk, it is important to remember the other side of that is getting enough HDL. An ideal HDL level is 60 and higher. An HDL level of less than 40 will put one at risk for heart problems. When LDL levels reach 160 to 190, it is entering a serious risk range in spite of HDL as a total cholesterol level above 240 is dangerously high.

  • Total cholesterol levels should be less than 200, where levels between 200-239 are cause for concern and levels above 240 put one at very high risk.
  • HDL levels should be higher than 60 as a protective measure where levels less than 40 are cause for serious concern.
  • LDL levels are best under 100 and levels below 130 are not too concerning. As levels reach 160 serious changes need to be made as levels above 190 put one at high risk for heart problems.

Keeping HDL levels above 60 is a proactive measure one can take to protect against heart disease. For those already dealing with heart disease it is often part of the treatment plan to get LDL levels lower than 70. Even if one is found to be at high-risk, lowering LDL levels to less than 100 will provide protection from developing issues. Triglycerides are not always shown on the typical cholesterol chart but are just as important to keep in check to avoid coronary artery disease complications. The normal range for triglycerides is under 150 with a serious watch for levels between 200 to 500 and higher.

Cholesterol Management

Diet plays a big part in cholesterol management however there are other outside factors that can affect cholesterol scores. Some cholesterol level factors are out of one’s control such as family history, based on passed genes. Another factor is age. As one gets older, cholesterol levels naturally rise including the increase of LDL and decrease of HDL. Some things in one’s control that can lower triglycerides and raise HDL is weight management and exercise. Cholesterol charts will visually represent the dynamic of high levels of HDL cholesterol’s effect on the risk total cholesterol level puts one at.

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