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What is Considered High Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that is found in your body’s cells. It’s necessary to produce hormones, Vitamin D, and other substances that help you digest food. Your body already produces the adequate amount enough cholesterol to function, but cholesterol is also found in the foods we eat.
Cholesterol travels through the body through the bloodstream in clusters called lipoproteins, which are both fat and protein. Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are referred to as “bad” cholesterol. A high LDL level contributes to the build-up of bad cholesterol in the arteries.
The “good” cholesterol is called HDL, which stands for high-density lipoproteins. It is considered a good cholesterol because it carries cholesterol from other parts of the body back to the liver, where your body gets rid of it.
What Happens During a Cholesterol Test?
When your cholesterol levels are tested, four things are checked: your total cholesterol, your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and your HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and your triglycerides.
In the United States, cholesterol is measured using milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood. In Canada and Europe, cholesterol is measured using millimoles (mmol) per liter (L) of blood.
High Cholesterol Numbers
Total Cholesterol
In order for your total cholesterol to be considered high, the measurement would be 240mg/dL and above if you live in the United States. In Canada and Europe, high total cholesterol would be considered 6.2 mmol/L.
LDL (“bad”) Cholesterol
If you live in the United States, a high LDL cholesterol level would be considered 160-189 mg/dL. In Canada and Europe, high LDL cholesterol would be considered 4.1 – 4.9 mmol/L.
HDL (“good”) Cholesterol
In order for your HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels to be considered “best”, in the United States, they would need to be 60 mg/dL and above. If you live in Canada or Europe, the best levels would be considered 1.5 mmol/L and above.
Risk Factors for High Cholesterol Levels
High cholesterol levels may put different people at different risks, depending upon several factors.
One of the main factors is if you’ve had a previous heart attack or stroke. Other factors include artery blockages in your neck (carotid artery disease), and artery blockages in your arms or legs (peripheral artery disease).
Other risk factors that may place you in the “high risk” group are:

  • Smoking
  • Low HDL cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of heart disease
  • For women, if you are older than age 55; for men, if you are older than 45
  • Elevated lipoprotein (a), which is another type of fat in your blood.

To lower your risk factor for cholesterol-related conditions and lower your cholesterol overall, eat a healthy diet, exercise, make lifestyle changes and take your medications as prescribed.
A cholesterol check should be performed every five years for adults.

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