Cholesterol is one of the body’s fats or lipids – a waxy steroid of fat which is responsible for bile acids, vitamin D and steroid hormones among other things. Cholesterol levels for women are one of the determinants of fitness and good health, and also the predictors of heart disease and other issues. Sites such as www.HealthTestingCenters.com offer appointments where you can have cholesterol levels checked.
When normal cholesterol levels for women are disturbed, the following problems can occur:
While high cholesterol may not cause any outward symptoms it can cause plaque buildup in the arteries. This narrows the arteries and hardens them. This narrowing and loss of elasticity of the arteries can lead to heart disease because blood circulation gets impeded.
The result of abnormal cholesterol levels for women is atherosclerosis which is the partial or complete block of the artery and this can cause heart arrhythmias, stroke, heart attack, peripheral arterial disease.
The difference between good and bad cholesterol
High density lipoproteins or HDL is often referred to as the “Good cholesterol” because it is this substance that helps to prevent plaque buildup in the arteries. Low density lipoproteins or LDL is the bad cholesterol which is what clogs the arteries.
Rather than absolute cholesterol levels, what is important is the proportion of good and bad cholesterol be controlled and kept in the proper proportion.
What should cholesterol levels for women be?
- The total cholesterol levels for females should ideally be below 200 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter). Between 200 and 240 mg/dL is thought to be high risk, and above the count of 240 mg/dL is considered high blood cholesterol
- HDL (good) cholesterol among women with or without heart disease should be 60 mg/dL or higher. HDL levels lower than 35 are known to increase heart disease risk
- LDL (bad) cholesterol levels for women should be below 130 mg/dL if they have no heart disease. A count of 130 to 160 is considered borderline, and above this count is considered high.
- For women with heart disease, LDL cholesterol should be below 100 mg/dL, since any higher can be risky.
Women who have a family history or a personal history of heart disease have to be more vigilant about controlling cholesterol levels because their risk of heart disease is elevated already and may be further elevated by high cholesterol levels and poor good to bad cholesterol ratios.
Factors responsible for high cholesterol levels for women
Heredity is one of the most significant factors for high cholesterol. Having high cholesterol levels in the family predisposes a person to this health problem.
The other factors most responsible for high cholesterol are nutrition and levels of activity. Eating higher proportion of foods that contain cholesterol, such as eggs, some seafood as well as foods high saturated fats such as red meat, deli meats, cheese, cream, cakes, cookies and so on.
Sedentary lifestyles are also responsible for high cholesterol levels in women and can mean lower levels of HDL and higher proportion of LDL. A high BMI and being overweight is also a contributing factor.
Other lifestyle factors also contribute to high cholesterol levels: smoking and excess alcohol consumption are known factors.
Other risk factors for developing high cholesterol
The good news is that women are less likely to have high cholesterol than men however the risk rises even among women as they get older or as they reach menopause. With age and due to menopause, the protection that women of reproductive age have decreases.
Also certain medical conditions may also be connected to high cholesterol levels for women. Women who have thyroid problems and hence altered metabolism, kidney disease or diabetes are more likely to have cholesterol problems.
Some races and ethnic groups are also more at risk. For instance South Asian or people from the Indian subcontinent may be at higher risk.
Tips for controlling cholesterol levels
It is possible to control high cholesterol levels for women by avoiding foods high in saturated fats eating lots of fruit, vegetables and whole grains, and getting lots of exercise and keeping weight within normal ranges. Giving up smoking and limiting alcohol can also help control cholesterol. If these tips do not help, prescription medications such as statins, aspirin, niacin, and drugs to lower triglyceride levels and high blood pressure may be needed.