A lot of people know that cholesterol might pose a problem when they don’t do enough exercise, or when they eat too much, or too many foods that are rich in fat. But how many of you know that cholesterol is actually related to a person’s gender and age?
Cholesterol and age: What do you need to know?
As the body grows older, cholesterol levels rise. This happens because the liver isn’t as efficient in eliminating bad cholesterol as it once was, as most of your body parts get “lazy” with age. It’s not coincidental that children are less likely to develop cholesterol problems compared to adults over the age of 60.
The tricky thing about cholesterol is that, even if you don’t have problems with it, it’s best to always take the necessary precautions as to avoid it. This implies a healthy diet and exercising often.
Generally speaking, a person’s cholesterol level is calculated as a total, but also as individual good and bad cholesterol. Interpreting the results of a cholesterol test may seem pretty straightforward, but the truth is that these numbers can mean a different thing depending on other factors, such as age, gender, or current health status.
For example, a cholesterol number that could be considered high for an average person, can actually be critical for someone who also has coronary heart disease.
Interpreting cholesterol results is best left to a doctor. That being said, here’s some brief info on what you should know about children’s cholesterol levels:
- The total cholesterol of a child should not exceed the 170 mg/dL threshold.
- Total cholesterol levels that are between 170 and 199 mg/dL are high.
- If the cholesterol level of a child exceeds 200 mg/dL, their health condition might turn critical.
- The total LDL (bad cholesterol) of a child should be less than 110 mg/dL.
- If the LDL level is 130 mg/dL or above, it’s too high.
As far as adults are concerned, the numbers are a bit more “permissive”:
- The best total cholesterol levels for adults are below 200 mg/dL.
- Total cholesterol reading that are above 240 mg/dL are high.
- LDL levels between 100 and 129 are acceptable, provided that you don’t have any heart disease factors.
- Those who have LDL cholesterol levels between 130 and 189 mg/dL have borderline high and high cholesterol.
- LDL cholesterol that exceeds 190 mg/dL is very high.
- For adults, the best reading for HDL cholesterol levels is 60 mg/dL or above.
Cholesterol and men
Gender does have an impact on your cholesterol levels, but probably not in the way that you’d expect. As far as men are concerned, those who are at least 45 years of age have much higher chances of ending up with high cholesterol-induced heart disease. However, that doesn’t mean that younger men can’t have high cholesterol problems. A study published in the journal Circulation revealed a connection between heart disease and insulin resistance, which is more common among males rather than females.
Cholesterol and women
Younger women are at a lower risk of developing high cholesterol and the problems that go along with it, but women who are closer to menopause need to pay really close attention to their cholesterol levels. In the years preceding menopause, women are just as likely to develop heart disease as men.
Menopause can be either natural or hysterectomy-induced. Whatever the case, it makes a woman more vulnerable to heart disease than during her years having a menstrual cycle. That’s because women who are at menopause no longer produce any estrogen, which is beneficial for the body.
There are certain postmenopausal hormone replacement therapies, but they are not efficient enough to prevent disease as the natural production of estrogen is. There are a couple of studies that suggest this kind of therapy might actually increase a woman’s risk of developing heart disease.
While the subject is controversial and is still being researched, specialists don’t recommend postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy with the purpose of diminishing the risk of heart disease in women.
Also note that during pregnancy, women have higher cholesterol levels, although there is no evidence to suggest that this might have a long-term impact. Cholesterol does play an important part in the growth of the baby, as it helps with their brain function, as well as stabilizes the cell membranes.
Other important cholesterol considerations
While age and gender can influence cholesterol levels, there are some guidelines that are pretty specific about how everyone should watch out for such a threat:
- Adults over the age of 21 should check their cholesterol levels once every five years.
- People who have a family history of high cholesterol, or those who have any sort of heart disease will need more frequent testing.
- Diet is an important part that everyone should look out for, whether adults or children, men or women.
- Obesity is a threat to cholesterol levels, so a proper diet goes hand-in-hand with exercising.
- High cholesterol can be inherited. The condition is called familial cholesterol, and it’s characterized by a gene mutation that can be passed on from parents to their children.
- While there are different factors that influence how cholesterol test results should be interpreted, there are two basic rules that apply to everyone: LDL levels should be as low as possible, while HDL levels - as high as possible.
While having high cholesterol is a risky business, it’s also something that’s fairly easy to handle, because there is so much room for improvement in the way that people eat and work out, it just takes a little ambition to be healthy.