Your Cholesterol Level

By now most of us understand that high cholesterol is unhealthy. All cholesterol is not bad. Cholesterol is needed to make certain hormones and other substances that assist indigestion. HDL carries cholesterol to your liver and removes it from your body. Triglycerides carry the fat through the bloodstream. Too much of the wrong kind of cholesterol (LDL and triglycerides) can lead to a buildup of plaque in the arteries, which can increase the risk of heart disease.
Often the first reaction to a diagnosis of high cholesterol is to get medication. It is important to know your total cholesterol number along with the breakdown of the good (HDL- high-density lipoprotein), the bad, (LDL-low density lipoprotein), and the ugly (triglycerides).

When you get those blood test results, read and review them with your physician. It’s important to understand these numbers and work on a solution together, starting with lifestyle changes.

There are factors beyond our control that can affect cholesterol levels, such as family history of heart disease, age, and sex (for men, the age is 45 and older; women, 55 years and up).

However, generally speaking, high cholesterol is a lifestyle symptom that can be controlled and managed. Diet, activity level, and how stress is managed are all within our control. These three factors are the key to lowering cholesterol through healthy lifestyle changes.

Keep it simple. As a general premise for overall health and wellness, you need to eat better, move more, and focus on the things you CAN control. Simple changes can make a big difference. Here are some pointers: 

Cholesterol Level for adults

According to the 2018 guidelines on blood cholesterol management published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC), these are acceptable, borderline, and high measurements for adults.

chart for adults

Cholesterol Level for children

Children who are physically active, have a healthy diet, are not overweight and do not have a family history of high cholesterol have a lower risk of developing high cholesterol.

Current guidelines recommend that all children be tested for cholesterol between the ages of 9 and 11 and again between the ages of 17 and 21.

Children with high-risk factors, such as diabetes, obesity, or a family history of high cholesterol, should be tested between the ages of 2 and 8, and then between the ages of 12 and 16.

chart for children

Cholesterol test

A blood test is an outpatient procedure. It only takes a few minutes and it is relatively painful. This is usually done in a diagnostic lab. In some cases, this can be done during a regular doctor's visit, at a local pharmacy, or even at home. Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams (milligrams) of blood distiller (DL) cholesterol. 

Cholesterol normal range

LDL: 70 to 130 mg / dL (the lower the number the better)
HDL: 40 to 60 mg / dL (the higher the number, the better)
Total Cholesterol: Less than 200 mg / dL (The lower the number the better)
Triglycerides: 10 to 150 mg / dL (the lower the number the better)

Cholesterol diet

One of the biggest things you can do is lower your intake of saturated fats, such as butter and any fat found on meats. Eating better is not always eating less but about being selective on how you “feel” your body.

Avoid hydrogenated oils found in cookies, pastries, and baked goods. Make it a point to read labels. Often, the healthiest foods do not have labels. Yes, fruits and vegetables! Increase your fiber intake through foods like oatmeal, whole grains, and legumes.

Include soy and Omega-3 oils like flaxseed and fish oil. Consider plant sterols found in health food stores. Avoid processed foods that often contain hidden saturated fats and excessive sodium.

Some minerals like magnesium, selenium, and L-carnitine have been shown to lower cholesterol. Talk to your physician about testing for mineral deficiencies to determine what you may be lacking.
To check your cholesterol level, your doctor will need to take a sample of your blood. You may draw your blood in the morning, sometimes after fasting before nightfall.


Keep your weight in a healthy range for your age and sex. Exercise for 30 minutes a day. Recent activity guidelines set by the American College of Sports Medicine in conjunction with the American Heart Association advocate that working out at moderate levels in ten-minute intervals, three times a day, can have the same cumulative effect as a 30-minute session. Just keep moving. 


Stress often cannot be avoided, whether it’s related to demands at the office or caring for loved ones at home.

But how you manage stress can affect your overall health, including your cholesterol.

Go for a walk, get a massage, or try alternative medicines. Some studies have even indicated that therapies like acupuncture can reduce stress and in turn affect your cholesterol.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers a free online program called TLC –Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes, with a step by step guide to follow. It is a useful tool that can help incorporate simple changes in your life.

Lastly, there still may be a need to use medication along with lifestyle changes. Work with your physician to be sure you are on the right track and keep your physician informed of your changes, progress, and concerns so adjustments can be made as needed. 

MaryAnn Molloy is an ACSM certified personal trainer with over fifteen years of experience in the health and fitness field. She runs Healthy Body, Fit Mind located at Basics Fitness Center in South Portland, which helps Baby Boomer and seniors with fitness, weight loss, and lifestyle management.

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