Cholesterol Levels for Men – When Should I Start to Worry?
Cholesterol levels for men can be affected by an incredibly wide variety of factors. Diets that are high in bad fats, for instance, tend to lead to higher than desirable cholesterol levels. And, a sedentary lifestyle has also been associated with out of whack lipid levels. Generally speaking, unhealthy vices like smoking and excessive drinking can also lead to higher than normal cholesterol and, there are also those pesky genetic gifts like heredity and family history to consider as well.
Before worrying, it is important to understand what is considered normal and healthy in terms of cholesterol levels for men. The Mayo Clinic points out that in terms of LDL cholesterol, the limits are the same regardless of gender, with blood levels of 190 mg/dL and higher being considered high risk and “very high”. However, in terms of LDL cholesterol, it is important to worry and take action well before this high risk limit. Anything between 100 mg/dL and 129 mg/dL is considered normal or ideal. This means that the LDL cholesterol range between 130 mg/dL and 190 mg/dL is where the trouble begins brewing, and the Mayo Clinic refers to these cholesterol numbers (those ranging between 130-159 mg/dL and 160-189 mg/dL) as borderline high and high. In terms of concern, once ldl cholesterol levels for men get above 130, it may be time to start making some changes in order to prevent an unintended rise over time.
Why is elevated LDL bad? Well, LDL (low density lipoprotein) has been dubbed bad cholesterol because it has been associated with a greater risk of heart related illness and disease as well as an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. WebMD explains that bad cholesterol is the type which is attributed to blockages and build ups as it tends to collect along the walls of blood vessel walls. This phenomenon is problematic because the affixed bad cholesterol can make it more difficult for blood to pass through as it should.
However, while LDL is a very important part of the equation concerning cholesterol levels for men; it is not the only piece to the puzzle. How much good cholesterol one has is also important, and in terms of HDL levels, ideal cholesterol levels for women and men do differ somewhat. The Mayo Clinic also points out that while for both genders, HDL levels above 60 mg/dL are considered healthy cholesterol levels, men falling below 40 mg/dL may have cause for concern (this is compared to anything less than 50 mg/dL in women). Why is this important? Well, because it fortunately shows that men have a little more leeway than women in terms of time to panic, as their HDL levels can remain lower than women’s and still be considered acceptable. This gender specific difference is also compounded by age, where cholesterol levels in children and adults vary, as does the tendency for total cholesterol to rise with age in general.
Because there are literally no symptoms present when elevated cholesterol levels for men exist, it can be difficult to understand when there should be cause for concern. This is where a total cholesterol number can come in to play. It may be easier to monitor total cholesterol than it is to regularly be subjected to lipid panels, which are not often done until they become routine for middle aged adults. In terms of total cholesterol, The Mayo Clinic details that levels above 240 mg/dL are considered high, and anything under 200 mg/dL is considered desirable.
One easy method to monitor lipid levels is by using home cholesterol test kits. These small devices are available at drug stores and pharmacies and are able to provide a generalized look at cholesterol levels. However, these kits are not useful for identifying levels of LDL and HDL, only total cholesterol. And, they may not be perfectly accurate when compared to lab readings from a physician. However, they can certainly signal dangerous trends and be used to monitor the success of healthy lifestyle changes and efforts.
The sooner that action is taken to begin reducing cholesterol levels in men, the better. So, while LDL levels are not considered high until they reach 190 mg/dL, that range may make taking action difficult and less successful. While this high range is the one associated with increased coronary risk, it is also the the most challenging to correct. The time for men to begin to worry about cholesterol is when it reaches borderline high levels (those between 130-159 mg/dL for LDL levels and 200-239 mg/dL total cholesterol). From these ranges, dietary and lifestyle changes may prove to be more successful. Once ranges enter those considered high or very high, it may be more difficult to stabilize them. However, that does not mean that it is not worth the effort. Cholesterol has been very intimately linked with a variety of heart related conditions, and knowing that they are possible is half the battle, correcting it is the other half.