Age is a major factor in the amount of cholesterol in your blood. Being older than 45 years old if you're a man and older than 55 if you're a woman is a "risk factor" for having a cholesterol problem, according to the U.S. government's National Cholesterol Education Program, or NCEP. Women have higher normal good, or HDL cholesterol levels than men throughout their lives, better total cholesterol and and bad, or LDL cholesterol levels before menopause.
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Your risk of heart disease increases as your total and bad blood cholesterol increase and your good cholesterol drops. Age has little impact on good cholesterol, but total and bad cholesterol rise with age. However, cholesterol hikes aren't inevitable because diet, physical activity, weight, quitting smoking and treating high blood pressure can improve cholesterol, the NCEP reports. Whenever your total cholesterol drops, your heart disease risk drops by twice as much percentagewise, according to "The 8-Week Cholesterol Cure." A 5 percent drop in cholesterol results in a 10 percent drop in heart disease risk.
Total and bad cholesterol levels increase with age because the LDL, or low-density lipoprotein receptors that remove bad cholesterol from your blood, become less active with age. However, the connection between body fat percentage and total and bad cholesterol is "much stronger" than the connection between age and cholesterol levels, according to "Controlling Cholesterol the Natural Way." Author Dr. Kenneth Cooper added that women have fewer cholesterol problems than men before menopause because estrogen increases good cholesterol and reduces bad cholesterol.
Women's higher good cholesterol protects them from heart disease, while men are often susceptible to heart disease because good cholesterol below 40 milligrams per deciliter, or mg/dL, is a "major risk factor" for heart disease, the NCEP reports. The average, or normal, good cholesterol in men is 42 to 44 mg/dL at all ages; while the average good cholesterol in women is 53 mg/dL before age 30, 57 mg/dL at ages 30 to 39, 58 mg/dL at ages 40 to 49, 60 mg/dL at ages 50 to 59 and 62 mg/dL above 60.
Total cholesterol measurements in women become a major heart-disease risk factor after menopause because their average total cholesterol leaps from 194 mg/dL when they're 40 to 49 years old to 219 mg/dL when they're 50 to 59. Total cholesterol above 200 mg/dL is a risk factor, the NCEP reports. Men's average total cholesterol is 205 mg/dL when they're 40 to 49 and 208 mg/dL when they're 50 and above. Below age 40, men's average total cholesterol is 185 mg/dL but for women it is 183 mg/dL.
Bad cholesterol is more important than total and good cholesterol in ascertaining your heart-disease risk, and bad cholesterol above 130 mg/dL is "borderline high," the NCEP reports. Men's average bad cholesterol is 136 mg/dL before age 30, 149 mg/dL when they're 30 to 39, 162 mg/dL when they're 40 to 49, 165 mg/dL when they're 50 to 59 and 164 mg/dL when they're above 60, according to "Controlling Cholesterol The Natural Way." For women, average bad cholesterol at the same ages are 126 mg/dL, 129 mg/dL, 136 mg/dL, 159 mg/dL and 159 mg/dL.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- "Controlling Cholesterol The Natural Way" Dr. Kenneth Cooper and William Proctor; 1999
- "The 8-Week Cholesterol Cure"; Robert E. Kowalski; 2004
- National Cholesterol Education Program: High Blood Cholesterol
- National Institutes of Health: Your Guide to Lowering Your Cholesterol
- Harvard Women's Health Watch: 5 Tips to Increase HDL Cholesterol
- Mayo Clinic: Cholesterol in the News: Answers and More Questions