Maintaining the proper level of cholesterol is essential for health. Many diseases are related to high levels of this substance in the body. In this article we tell you what are the proper cholesterol values for a healthy life.
The adequate level of cholesterol for humans was and is a topic of discussion in medicine. Not only because of being able to determine what the acceptable figures are, but also as a public health problem. High cholesterol is behind many diseases.
It is a waxy substance, which means that it is similar to what we know as fat. It is within the cells of the body, on the walls of those cells, and circulating in the blood. We could assure you that cholesterol is necessary.
Cholesterol is so necessary for humans that its functions are diverse:
- Formation of bile acids to aid in the digestion of food.
- Protection of the skin through its participation in the metabolism of vitamin D.
- Production of hormones, such as thyroid and sexual hormones.
The proper level of cholesterol is not achieved only by restricting foods high in the substance. If so, it would be very easy to treat people with heart disease. The approach is more complicated because part of the human cholesterol is synthesized by the body itself.
The types of cholesterol
Cholesterol circulates in the body bound to proteins. In this case, proteins are like vehicles that move the substance between the organs and cells that need it. There are two types of cholesterol transporting proteins:
- LDL or low-density lipoproteins: they carry new cholesterol from the liver to the rest of the cells. It is what is known as “bad cholesterol”, that is, the one that is capable of clogging the arteries.
- HDL or high-density lipoproteins: collect unused cholesterol to return it to the liver. It is the so-called “good cholesterol”, since it eliminates excess cholesterol.
In addition to being able to measure and determine the appropriate levels of LDL and HDL cholesterol, it is also possible to perform other biochemical measurements to know the general state of the lipid profile in the body. Among these other measurements we have:
- Total cholesterol: it is obtained from the sum of bad cholesterol and good cholesterol. It is not an efficient measure by itself, since it can be a high number due to high good cholesterol, which would not represent a danger to health.
- Triglycerides: they are a form that lipids acquire in the body. Measurement of these lipids is important for diet adjustments and to prevent diseases such as pancreatitis.
- VLDL: it is the lipoprotein of very low density, and it would be comparable to another “bad cholesterol”. It is difficult to measure with a laboratory test, so doctors often calculate it from a mathematical formula based on the other lipid results.
Why measures your cholesterol?
Not having adequate cholesterol levels is the main cause of atherosclerotic disease. This consists of the formation of fatty plaques inside the arteries, obstructing the passage of blood. Also, the plaques can rupture, forming blood clots.
Atherosclerotic disease includes coronary problems such as angina pectoris and acute myocardial infarction; cerebrovascular situations such as stroke and cerebral infarction; as well as peripheral arterial disease, which causes obstruction in the legs.
Every adult should measure cholesterol levels with a blood test at least once a year. High levels of the substance do not usually cause symptoms until a major cardiovascular event occurs. For this reason, measurement becomes a prevention tool.
Even more so, those who:
- They have a family history of heart attacks.
- They have diabetes, type 1 or type 2.
- They have high levels of blood pressure (arterial hypertension).
- They are smokers.
- They have a high weight. Being at levels of overweight or obesity.
What are the proper cholesterol levels?
Although the list of adequate cholesterol levels that we present below is not applicable for children, since until adolescence it varies according to each age, it is useful to have the references of adults:
- Total cholesterol: a value less than 200 mg/dl is considered adequate. Above that figure is hypercholesterolemia.
- LDL: for bad cholesterol the value that is assimilated as optimal is less than 100 mg/dl. Between 100 and 140 mg/dl is an intermediate value, which already represents a risk for some scientists, and for others it should not be treated. When values greater than 140 mg/dl appear, there is consensus that it should be treated. Currently the treatment of choice is statins.
- HDL: Good cholesterol has minimum and not maximum adequate levels. It is normal when it exceeds 35 mg/dl.
- Triglycerides: less than 150 mg/dl are normal values: Hypertriglyceridemia is diagnosed with measurements greater than 200 mg/dl. People with triglycerides of more than 500 mg/dl are seriously affected by pancreatitis.
In short, it is not vitally important that you memorize the proper cholesterol level, but it is essential that you perform a periodic blood test. With the results in hand, the professional will know how to tell you if you need to start a drug treatment, change your lifestyle or just control yourself after twelve months.