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Cholesterol Levels for Women

Cholesterol Levels for Women

A study reveals that 44% of men with diabetes had their cholesterol under control, compared with 38% of women with diabetes. Also 52% to 56% of men who suffered recent cardiac event had their cholesterol under control, compared with 43% to 47% of women. Higher levels of LDL cholesterol lead to a build up of cholesterol in arteries. Any woman who has LDL cholesterol is likely to suffer heart disease or heart attacks.

Many women are unaware that they can be on a healthy diet plan with regular exercise built into their regimen and still suffer high cholesterol levels. Besides, in most cases high cholesterol does not result in symptoms so it tends to get ignored. Also many women are unaware of the parameters of measurement of cholesterol.

Understanding Cholesterol

Cholesterol is needed for the body to produce hormones, vitamin D and certain substances that help digest foods. Our body generally produces the required amount of this waxy, fat-like (cholesterol) substance though it is also found in the food we consume.

Cholesterol is fatty while blood is watery. They do not mix and hence lipoproteins are required for the cholesterol to travel in the blood stream. Lipoproteins package the cholesterol with fat or lipid inside and proteins outside. Different types of lipoproteins:

Chylomicrons: Containing about 7% cholesterol, chylomicrons carry fats and cholesterol to the liver from the intestine. In the process of transporting energy to muscles, these lipoproteins are metabolized.

Very low-density lipoproteins or VLDL contain cholesterol and mostly triglycerides.

Intermediate-density lipoproteins or IDL are short-lived lipoproteins that are converted soon into LDL.

Low-density lipoproteins or LDL carry cholesterol from the liver to the rest of the body tissues. Popularly called 'bad cholesterol', LDL causes plaque formation.

High-density lipoproteins or HDL contain 50% protein and 19% cholesterol. Also referred to as 'good cholesterol', HDL levels are affected by lifestyle habits.

Women and Cholesterol

Women usually notice fluctuating cholesterol levels because of the effect of estrogen on cholesterol. In general, estrogen increases the amount of HDL cholesterol in the body and also in turn reducing the LDL cholesterol.

Usually estrogen production is high during puberty and is low during the menopause period. Estrogen produced during pregnancy in women has a cardio-protective effect. Hence, women at younger age are less likely to get heart diseases. However, during menopause estrogen levels decline leading to the fall of HDL levels as well. As a result, LDL cholesterol levels rise and usually puts a woman at risk of heart disease.

Cholesterol levels for women

The ideal total cholesterol level for women without a coronary heart disease should be less than 200 mg/dL. If the total cholesterol level goes beyond 240 mg/dL then it is considered as high blood cholesterol. Remember even the cholesterol levels at the borderline (200-239 mg/dL) increase the risk of heart disease.

Total cholesterol
< 200 mg/dL Desirable (lowers the risk of developing coronary heart disease)
200 to 239 mg/dL Borderline high
> 240 mg/dL High (more than doubles the risk of developing coronary heart disease)

Triglycerides Level
< 150 mg/dL Normal
150 to 199 mg/dL Borderline high
200 to 499 mg/dL High
> 500 mg/dL Very High

HDL & LDL levels for women without coronary heart disease
Ideal or Desirable levels (required levels to avoid risk of heart disease) Risk levels (at the risk of heart disease)
HDL 60 mg/dL or higher Below 35 mg/dL
LDL Below 130 mg/dL 130-159 mg/dL are borderline-high 160 mg/dL or above are high

HDL & LDL levels for women with coronary heart disease
Ideal or Desirable levels (required levels to avoid risk of heart disease) Risk levels (at the risk of heart disease)
HDL 60 mg/dL or higher Below 35 mg/dL
LDL About 100 mg/dL or below Above 100 mg/dL

Women with coronary heart disease (CAD) must check their cholesterol levels once every year. While monitoring Cholesterol levels, it is essential to check the individual lipoprotein levels. When the Total Cholesterol/HDL ratio is low, the risk of CAD is lower. Genetic factors play no small role in individual cholesterol levels. Use of oral contraceptives, diuretics and some antibiotics might affect the cholesterol level readings. It is difficult to raise HDL cholesterol that is lowered due to genetic factor. High levels of triglycerides can be result of insulin resistance.

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