The state of your heart is dependent upon keeping healthy cholesterol levels. Cholesterol, or more specifically blood cholesterol, is the waxy or fatty steroid found in cell membranes that is transported through the body in the blood. While the body naturally makes this substance, we also consume a good deal of cholesterol through many of the foods we eat. This can lead to having excess cholesterol levels that can clog the artery walls, risking a heart attack or stroke. Acceptable cholesterol levels are a healthy amount of cholesterol that won't negatively affect your heart.
There are several types of cholesterol that must be taken into account when considering cholesterol levels. They are low-density lipid protein (LDL), high-density lipid protein (HDL) and triglycerides—not to mention the total overall cholesterol level.
The LDL cholesterol level is what people generally speak of when they report high cholesterol levels. This is also called ''bad cholesterol." Having too much of this in the arteries is damaging to the heart and brain. A healthy LDL level is below 100, and for someone already at risk for heart disease, it should be below 70.
The HDL cholesterol level, also called "good cholesterol" should be higher than your LDL level. The job of the HDL cholesterol is to carry cholesterol from the arteries to the liver, where it is eliminated from the body. This cholesterol should still be within normal ranges. An acceptable level for HDL cholesterol is 60 or higher. If it is below 40 for men or 50 for women, there is an elevated risk of heart disease.
When there are excess triglycerides in the blood, it can lead to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and cause heart disease or a stroke. Acceptable triglyceride levels are less than 150.
Your total or overall cholesterol level is what most people go by to determine what is acceptable or not. A desirable total cholesterol is less than 200, and 200 to 239 is borderline high.
Cholesterol in children
The emphasis on keeping track of cholesterol levels in children has gained as more children have become obese. Parents who have high cholesterol or obese children should have their cholesterol checked. For children ages 2 to 18, LDL levels should be 110 or less, and the total cholesterol level should be less than 170.