Cholesterol is a fatty substance found in the human blood, in the cell wall, and in the form of hormones. It is handled mainly by the liver, but different organs and cells around the body have the metabolic potential to convert fat into energy and other cell components.
Cholesterol is usually considered bad, but it is not necessarily so. Despite its reputation, cholesterol is required for many body functions. The problem is that we typically have more cholesterol in the blood than we need. It’s similar to what happens with carbohydrates, which are beneficial and a source of energy, but an excess can cause diabetes.
Thus, modern medicine usually has an upper threshold for cholesterol and measures different cholesterol fractions to evaluate the magnitude of the problem. The only cholesterol fraction that should stay high is HDL, and it is regarded as “good” cholesterol.
In this article, we will take a look at normal cholesterol levels in men and women, breaking down cholesterol into its main types and taking a quick look at another fatty particle known as triglycerides.
1) What is total cholesterol, and what is the normal range
As the name implies, total cholesterol is a measure of all cholesterol fractions in the blood, regardless of where they are and whether they are good (HDL) or bad (LDL and VLDL). Total cholesterol is a very important measure because it can be used to predict the risk of heart disease. Sometimes your bad cholesterol can be close to the high threshold but still normal, but then your total cholesterol is high, reflecting a problem in your blood lipids not measured by LDL alone.
The total cholesterol range should stay below 200 mg/dL. A reading of 200 to 239 mg/dL is a borderline high cholesterol level. And if you are over 240 mg/dL, it is considered very high. Why do I need to know my total cholesterol? Your doctor should test your total cholesterol at least once per year, and they may decide to do it more often if you have a high risk of cardiovascular disease.