Cholesterol levels tend to increase with age. Doctors recommend taking steps earlier in life to prevent dangerously high levels of cholesterol developing as a person ages. Years of unmanaged cholesterol can be much trickier to treat.
Children are least likely to have high levels of cholesterol and only need to have their levels checked once or twice before they are 18 years old.
However, if the child has risk factors for higher levels of cholesterol, they should get monitored more frequently.
Typically, men tend to have higher levels of cholesterol throughout life than women. A man’s cholesterol levels generally increase as they age. However, women aren’t immune to high cholesterol. A woman’s cholesterol often increases when she goes through menopause.
Healthy levels of cholesterol don’t vary much for typical adults. Variation of recommended levelsTrusted Source tends to change due to other health conditions and considerations.
Cholesterol levels for adults
- Total cholesterol levels less than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) are considered desirable for adults. A reading between 200 and 239 mg/dL is considered borderline high and a reading of 240 mg/dL and above is considered high.
- LDL cholesterol levels should be less than 100 mg/dL. Levels of 100 to 129 mg/dL are acceptable for people with no health issues but may be of more concern for those with heart disease or heart disease risk factors. A reading of 130 to 159 mg/dL is borderline high and 160 to 189 mg/dL is high. A reading of 190 mg/dL or higher is considered very high.
- HDL levels should be kept higher. A reading of less than 40 mg/dL is considered a major risk factor for heart disease. A reading from 41 mg/dL to 59 mg/dL is considered borderline low. The optimal reading for HDL levels is of 60 mg/dL or higher.
Cholesterol levels for children
By comparison, acceptable levels of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in children are different.
- An acceptable range of total cholesterol for a child is less than 170 mg/dL. Borderline high total cholesterol for a child ranges from 170 to 199 mg/dL. Any reading of total cholesterol over 200 in a child is too high.
- A child’s LDL cholesterol levels should also be lower than an adult’s. The optimal range of LDL cholesterol for a child is less than 110 mg/dL. Borderline high is from 110 to 129 mg/dL while high is over 130 mg/dL.
The best recommendation for children and adolescents to keep cholesterol levels in check is living a healthful, active lifestyle. This includes eating a healthful diet and getting plenty of exercise.
Sedentary, overweight children who eat a diet high in processed foods are most likely to have high cholesterol. Children who have a family history of high cholesterol may also be at risk.
Generally, the earlier an adult starts living a healthful lifestyle, the better for their cholesterol levels. Cholesterol levels build over time. A sudden change in lifestyle will help eventually, but the older a person is, the less impact they will see in cholesterol levels.
All adults should stay active and maintain regular exercise routines. Women going through menopause and adults with high levels of cholesterol may want to consider medication that will help reduce cholesterol levels more rapidly than diet alone.
High cholesterol at any age puts a person at risk for heart disease, heart attack, and strokes. These risks only increase over time, especially for adults who are not taking action to reduce their cholesterol buildup.