High cholesterol has no symptoms. A blood test is the only way to detect high cholesterol.
Ask your doctor for a baseline cholesterol test at age 20 and then have your cholesterol retested at least every five years. If your test results aren't within desirable ranges, your doctor may recommend more frequent measurements. Your doctor may also suggest you have more frequent tests if you have a family history of high cholesterol, heart disease or other risk factors, such as smoking, diabetes or high blood pressure.
Cholesterol is carried through your blood, attached to proteins. This combination of proteins and cholesterol is called a lipoprotein. You may have heard of different types of cholesterol, based on what type of cholesterol the lipoprotein carries. They are:
Factors within your control — such as inactivity, obesity and an unhealthy diet — contribute to high LDL cholesterol and low HDL cholesterol. Factors beyond your control may play a role, too. For example, your genetic makeup may keep cells from removing LDL cholesterol from your blood efficiently or cause your liver to produce too much cholesterol.
You're more likely to have high cholesterol that can lead to heart disease if you have any of these risk factors:
A blood test to check cholesterol levels - called a lipid panel - typically reports Total Cholesterol, LDL Cholesterol, HDL Cholesterol, and Triglycerides (a type of fat in blood). For the most accurate results, do not eat or drink anything other than water for 9 - 12 hours before the blood sample is taken.
Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood in the United States.
Your doctor may determine that your cholesterol needs treatment based on the presence of heart disease or on your individual risk of heart attack, even if the cholesterol values do not seem elevated.
|Below 200 mg/dL||Best|
|200-239 mg/dL||Borderline high|
|240 mg/dL and above||High|
|Below 70 mg/dL||Best for people with heart disease|
|Below 100 mg/dL||Best for people at risk of heart disease.
Below 70 mg/dL may be ideal for people who have heart disease.
|100 - 129 mg/dL||Near ideal|
|130 - 159 mg/dL||Borderline high|
|160 - 189 md/dL||High|
|190 mg/dL and above||Very high|
|Below 40 mg/dL (men)
Below 50 mg/dL (women)
|50 - 59 mg/dL||Better|
|60 mg/dL and above||Best|
|Below 150 mg/dL||Best|
|150 - 199 mg/dL||Borderline high|
|200 - 499 mg/dL||High|
|500 mg/dL and above||Very high|
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that a triglyceride level of 100 mg/dL (1.3 mmol/L) or lower is considered "optimal." The AHA says this optimal level would improve your heart health. However, the AHA doesn't recommend drug treatment to reach this level. Instead, for those trying to lower their triglycerides to this level, lifestyle changes such as diet, weight loss and physical activity are encouraged. That's because triglycerides usually respond well to dietary and lifestyle changes.
The same heart-healthy lifestyle changes that can lower your cholesterol can help prevent you from having high cholesterol in the first place. To help prevent high cholesterol, you can:
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