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.
Chronic illnesses/habits that influence normal cholesterol
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:
Family history of high cholesterol and/or heart