Cholesterol Information

Cholesterol is a waxy fat like substance that is important for normal body functioning. Cholesterol is used for cellular functions and the production of hormones. Your body, in most cases, will produce enough cholesterol to maintain normal body needs. The liver is the major production factory for cholesterol (about 70%). Diets high in saturated fats, significantly increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood stream. Recommended daily intake of fat should not exceed 30% of calories, with a maximum of 10% being from saturated fat. Research indicates that diets high in saturated and total fat, play a significant role in the process of atherosclerosis (plaque build-up on the artery wall ).

High cholesterol levels are strong indicators of those individuals that are prone to coronary heart disease. Elevated total cholesterol is a risk factor for coronary heart disease. The build-up of plaque in the artery may lead to narrowing (high blood pressure) or complete blockage (heart attack) of the vessel. As levels rise above 180 mg/dl, the risk for developing coronary heart disease increases. A cholesterol value of 220 mg/dl correlates to nearly a two-fold elevation in incidence of coronary heart disease as compared to 180 mg/dl. A reduction of 1% is shown to reduce the risk for coronary artery disease by 2% for levels over 200 mg/dl.

Blood Lipid Facts and Figures

The following chart lists values for total cholesterol and HDL for men and women in the various age groups:

Age   Goal Moderate Risk High Risk
 (75th Percentile) (90th Percentile)
 20-29 >200 >220
 30-39 >220 >240
 40 and over >240 >260

 

These are recommendations of the National Cholesterol Education Program (National Institutes of Health) :

 Classifications of total cholesterol Recommendation
 Acceptable  less than 200 mg/dL Have test repeated every five years
 Borderline high  200-239 mg/dL If you have two other heart disease risk factors (see below), you should have your physician do a complete lipid profile and get medical advise based on that test.
If you have no other risk factors, you should change to a low fat diet and have another screening within a year.
 High  240 mg/dL and above you should see a physician within two months of screening for medical advise and treatment.

 

Heart disease risk factors which can be changed include high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, cigarette smoking, obesity, and sedentary lifestyle. Those risk factors which cannot be changed include family history, gender and advancing age (men >45; women >55). Diabetes is a risk factor that in some cases can be changed or controlled.