Do you know that unhealthy cholesterol levels can drastically increase your risk for heart disease, hypertension, and stroke?
The right amount of cholesterol is essential for your body to build up healthy cells, metabolize vitamins and hormones.
Your body may experience problems when there is an imbalance between LDL and HDL due to unhealthy lifestyle habits.
A significant drop in unhealthy cholesterol decreases your risk of cardiovascular disease by 25-30%.
This article gives an overview of normal cholesterol levels for men and shows you how to lower your cholesterol levels naturally.
What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a natural, waxy substance that serves as a building block for hormones (testosterone, estrogen), healthy cells, and cell membranes. About 80% of cholesterol is produced in the bloodstream by your liver and transported throughout the body with the help of lipoproteins. The remaining 20% of cholesterol comes from dietary sources, such as dairy products, eggs, meat, and fish.
The following are some vital functions of cholesterol:
- Maintaining the fluidity and integrity of cell membranes.
- Being the precursor of steroid hormones.
- Playing a pivotal role in helping your body synthesize vitamin D.
- Being a component of bile acids for the digestion of fatty foods .
Compared to women, men tend to have higher unhealthy cholesterol levels throughout their life, and these cholesterol levels increase as they age. Cholesterol levels in women often increase when they enter menopause.
Types Of Cholesterol
Total cholesterol levels in your body represent the overall amount of cholesterol present in the bloodstream. Cholesterol cannot travel through the bloodstream on its own. Instead, it is transported with the help of lipoproteins (lipo = fat) that are produced by your hepatic tissues (liver).
There are three types of cholesterol:
1. Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL)
LDL lipoprotein carries LDL cholesterol, also called “bad or lousy” cholesterol. High amounts of LDL cholesterol in the blood may cause plaque build-up in heart arteries, resulting in restricted blood flow to the heart.
2. High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL)
High-density lipoproteins are made up of low cholesterol levels and higher protein levels. Therefore, these are known as “good or happy” cholesterol.
HDL cholesterol helps the body remove bad cholesterol (LDL). If the HDL ratio is higher than the LDL, you’re at a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.
The total cholesterol also includes another type of fat, called triglyceride. Triglycerides are considered the “building blocks” of cholesterol.
High triglyceride levels and low HDL cholesterol can also contribute to plaque build-up in arteries, raising your risk for cardiovascular diseases.
Normal Cholesterol Levels For Men By Age
Normal values of different types of cholesterol vary according to age and gender. Your cholesterol level is measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).
The following table represents recommended cholesterol levels for men younger and older than 20 years old:
The following table also represents borderline and high cholesterol levels for men according to their age. These values can help you maintain optimal cholesterol levels.
Complications Of High Cholesterol
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), there are no visible signs and symptoms of high cholesterol levels. When your cholesterol levels remain high for an extended period, your blood vessels are at an increased risk of being clogged with fat deposits. A sudden break/rupture in these deposits can result in a stroke or heart attack.
The following are some health complications that may occur due to high cholesterol:
1. Coronary Artery Disease
If left untreated, high cholesterol levels facilitate accumulation in arteries. Over time, the plaque build-up restricts blood flow and causes the hardening of the arteries, leading to atherosclerosis.
Reduced blood supply to the heart can result in heart attack (if a blood vessel gets completely blocked) or chest pain, called angina .
Cholesterol plaque builds up in your arteries and also narrows or blocks blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients to the brain.
Complete blockage of the blood vessels that lead to the brain results in stroke because of reduced supply of oxygenated blood to the brain .
When heart blood vessels are narrowed due to plaque build, the heart has to pump harder and exert greater force to distribute blood throughout the body. As a result, blood pressure becomes abnormally elevated.
4. Peripheral Arterial Disease
PAD refers to blood vessel diseases in other areas than the heart and brain. High cholesterol levels cause plaque build-up in blood vessels that mainly lead to legs and feet, leading to poor blood circulation (PAD). The blood vessels leading to the kidneys may also be affected .
5. Type 2 Diabetes
The balance between HDL and LDL cholesterol is disrupted when you have type 2 diabetes. People with type 2 diabetes tend to have higher LDL cholesterol and triglycerides levels that may damage blood vessels more easily, increasing the risk of atherosclerosis and heart attack.
When To See A Doctor
Since high cholesterol has no apparent symptoms, regular monitoring of your cholesterol levels is very crucial.
Men over 20 years are recommended to get their cholesterol levels tested every 4 to 6 years. However, you should go for more frequent screening tests and visits to your doctor if:
- Your cholesterol levels go back to borderline or high levels even after treatment.
- You have a family history of high cholesterol.
- You’re obese.
- You smoke.
- You have high blood pressure.
How To Lower Your Cholesterol Levels Naturally
Improving your cholesterol levels naturally requires certain lifestyle modifications. The following ways can help you lower your cholesterol levels naturally:
1. Eat A Heart-Healthy Diet
Heart-healthy eating involves eating more polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids) and avoiding trans fats.
Packaged foods and fatty meats often contain trans fats that are harmful to your heart. You should also add more soluble fiber to your diet to maintain your HDL cholesterol levels.
2. Exercise Regularly
In one study of 40 adult women, a 12-week resistance training plan was suggested for participants. Those participants who followed the plan increased HDL cholesterol and reduced total cholesterol .
So, incorporate exercises like jogging, walking, lightweight lifts, and cycling to keep your cholesterol levels in check.
3. Quit smoking
Smoking speeds up the build-up of plaque in blood vessels. Tobacco tar present in cigarettes affects the immune cells, and as a result, they become inefficient in transporting cholesterol from vessels to the blood.
Dysfunction of these immune cells thus increases the risks of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Passive smoking is also harmful; therefore, non-smokers should also avoid cigarette smoke.
4. Maintain A Healthy Weight
Being overweight and obese has been linked with high LDL and low HDL cholesterol levels. Losing about 5-10% of your body weight can maintain optimal cholesterol levels.
5. Limit Alcohol Intake
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), drinking alcohol in moderation (two drinks per day for men) can also improve cholesterol levels. Drinking too much alcohol can abnormally increase triglycerides in your bloodstream, leading to conditions like atrial fibrillation and hypertension.
You should be extra cautious about maintaining healthy cholesterol levels if you have a risk/family history of developing heart disease. Blood tests and frequent screening of cholesterol levels are essential for men above 20 years. Many people are unaware of their blood cholesterol profile until they experience consequences.