Provided by
Yahoo! Contributor Network

Normal Cholesterol Levels

Normal cholesterol levels vary from person to person. That's because there are several variables used to determine what normal is for each individual. Cholesterol levels that are acceptable for one person may be considered ideal or even high risk for another.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fatty substance naturally found in our blood. It helps rebuild our cells and serves as a vital component of steroid hormones and Vitamin D. However, when we eat fatty foods, we are ingesting more cholesterol than our bodies need. The result is an excessive buildup of fat in our arteries that can cause partial or full blockage of these vessels eventually leading to heart disease, heart attack, and even stroke. So while cholesterol is essential for normal body functioning, it is even more important to keep our cholesterol levels within normal range.

Normal cholesterol levels for the average person

The American Heart Association recommends all persons keep their total serum cholesterol levels under 200mg/dL. This value is further divided into specific levels for good cholesterol (high density lipoproteins or HDLs) and bad cholesterol (low density lipoproteins or LDLs.) The target level for LDLs is under 130mg/dL while the ideal level for HDLs is at least 60mg/dL. Normal HDL cholesterol levels vary for men and women as well. Men should aim for an HDL level of no less than 40mg/dL. Because of hormonal changes related to aging, women's HDL levels should be higher.

Cholesterol levels and older women

When women reach menopause, their estrogen levels decrease dramatically. Unfortunately, this comes with an increase in serum LDL cholesterol levels and decrease in serum HDL cholesterol levels. Although the reasons for these changes are not 100% clear, a 2009 study published by the Journal of The American College of Cardiology found that estrogen may provide natural protection against heart disease. To make up for these changes in normal cholesterol levels, women should strive for an HDL level of at least 50mg/dL.

Low Cholesterol Foods

Chronic illnesses/habits that influence normal cholesterol levels

Certain chronic illnesses increase the risk for developing heart disease. So people who suffer from these conditions have different standards for what their normal cholesterol levels should be. You should keep your LDL levels under 70mg/dL if you had a previous stroke, are diagnosed with peripheral artery disease, or have two or more of the following conditions:

  • Obesity
  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of high cholesterol and/or heart disease
  • Smoking

Lower Cholesterol Naturally

Male over age 45 or female over age 55

People with only one of these conditions are still considered high risk, but their LDL cholesterol levels should be kept under 100mg/dL. 

Reviewed by Dr. Jennifer Monti, MD, MPH

Follow Yahoo Health on and become a fan on

Follow @YahooHealth on
Related Health News