Healthy cholesterol levels
What healthy cholesterol levels should look like, based on age and gender
Cholesterol is measured with a simple blood test called a lipid panel or lipid profile. Lipids are fats and fatty substances, which include cholesterol, that you carry in your bloodstream to be used as a source of energy.
If your cholesterol levels are too high — as is the case for more than 12% of US adults and about 7% of US children — it puts you at an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD). That’s your risk of developing any type of heart disease or stroke as a result of the buildup of cholesterol in your arteries.
Since high cholesterol levels usually have no symptoms, it’s important to have your levels measured by a doctor. There are a few different components in a cholesterol test, and the optimal levels can depend on your age, sex, and medical history.
Here’s what you need to know about how cholesterol levels are measured and what’s considered healthy for you.
How is cholesterol measured?
A cholesterol test measures the following levels:
– Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are called the “bad” type of cholesterol. When LDL levels are too high, it increases your risk of developing CVD.
– High-density lipoproteins (HDL) are called the “good” type of cholesterol. They help remove excess LDL cholesterol from the body — and you actually want higher HDL levels.
– Triglycerides are fats in your blood that have been converted from calories your body doesn’t need right away. You’ll want lower triglycerides, as high levels can increase your CVD risk.
– Total cholesterol is calculated using your HDL score + LDL score + 20% of your triglycerides score. You also want this to be lower, but it can’t be interpreted without your other scores.
Cholesterol levels for adults
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that people who are 20 or older have their cholesterol checked every four to six years.
And according to the US National Library of Medicine, men aged 45 to 65 and women aged 55 to 65 should have it every one to two years. That’s because as you age, you’re at an increased risk of high cholesterol.
Cholesterol levels chart for adults
It’s important to note that healthy cholesterol levels can look different for everyone, depending on other lifestyle factors, medical history, and genetics. But this chart can help give you some general guidelines:
If you have coronary artery disease or diabetes, your doctor will want to see lower LDL cholesterol levels — ideally, below 70 mg/dL — because you’re already at an increased risk of heart attack and stroke due the buildup of cholesterol in your arteries.
You’ll also need your cholesterol tested more regularly if you have cardiovascular disease or may be at risk.
Cholesterol levels for children
If you are 19 or younger, healthy cholesterol levels are different, because your cholesterol naturally increases as you age.
Children should be tested for the first time between ages 9 and 11, and then every five years after the first test, according to the US National Library of Medicine.
However, if there is a history of high cholesterol, heart attacks, or stroke in the family, children should start testing at the age of 2.