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LDL Cholesterol Levels: Symptoms and Causes

LDL Cholesterol: 194mg/dL

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Written by Edibel Quintero, RD | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Published on January 3, 2023
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6 min

Have you recently had a cholesterol level test and are wondering what the result of 194mg/dL means? We take a look at the causes and risks of a cholesterol level of 194mg/dL in this guide.

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What Does an LDL 194mg/dL Mean?

An LDL cholesterol level of 194mg/dL is considered high. LDL cholesterol stands for low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and is usually referred to as the bad kind of cholesterol. High LDL cholesterol levels increase your risk of developing heart disease and other cardiovascular conditions, like coronary artery disease.

The table below explains what different LDL cholesterol levels mean.

LDL cholesterol levelsmg/dL
Normal ✅<100
Elevated ❌101–159
High ❌160<

Your blood cholesterol is made up of both LDL and HDL cholesterol, and high blood cholesterol is often considered bad for your health. You do not get any symptoms of high cholesterol levels, and the only way to find out if you have high cholesterol is by taking a blood test.

How Often Is It Recommended to Measure LDL Cholesterol Levels?

For people with heart disease, diabetes, or a family history of high cholesterol levels, it is recommended that you get your cholesterol levels tested every 1–2 years.

For other healthy adults, it is recommended to take a cholesterol level test every 4–6 years1. Children should have their total cholesterol checked between the ages of 9–11 and again as younger adults between the ages of 17–21.

If you have high cholesterol levels, you may consider checking your cholesterol levels at home. The Cardi Health app can be used to track cholesterol over long periods of time and makes it easy to communicate your cholesterol levels with your healthcare provider.

It offers users recommendations for diet and lifestyle changes to help them get their heart health under control. 

The app is suitable for users with conditions including heart disease and coronary artery disease and even sends medication notifications to users.

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What Causes High LDL Levels? 

High levels of LDL cholesterol can be caused by a number of different factors:

  • A diet high in saturated fat
  • Not eating enough soluble fiber
  • Being overweight
  • Smoking
  • Medications, including some beta blockers2 and antivirals3
  • Diseases like diabetes and HIV/AIDS
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Genetics
  • Race

Symptoms of High LDL Cholesterol

High LDL cholesterol levels tend not to have specific symptoms. However, if you have an LDL cholesterol level of 194mg/dL or over, you may experience a heart attack or stroke. Often, a person does not know that they have high cholesterol until it is too late.

If you have a family history of high cholesterol, you may experience some of the following4.

  • Tendon xanthoma – Swelling in knuckles, knees, and Achilles tendon caused by cholesterol levels.
  • Xanthelasma – Small and yellow lumps of cholesterol in the inner corners of the eyes.
  • Corneal arcus – A pale white ring around the iris of the eye.

How to Lower LDL Cholesterol to an Optimal Level?

Fortunately, if you get a cholesterol test result of 194mg/dL or more, there are ways that you can lower your cholesterol levels to the optimal level once more. This will reduce your risk of heart disease and coronary artery disease.

#1 Increase soluble fiber intake

Soluble fiber is known to reduce5 LDL cholesterol absorption in the body. It works by binding to the cholesterol and preventing its passage into the bloodstream. Increasing your intake of soluble fiber is an excellent way of reducing your cholesterol levels.

You can find soluble fiber in many plant foods, including peas, beans, oats, apples, citrus fruits, barely, and psyllium husk.

If you feel that you are lacking fiber, we would suggest trying fiber supplements.

#2 Eliminate saturated fats

Eating too much saturated fat can increase the amount of LDL cholesterol in your bloodstream. Saturated fat is found in high-fat meats, cheese, butter, and coconut. It is solid at room temperature.

To eliminate saturated fats from your diet, you can swap them for healthy, unsaturated fats. These can be found in nuts and seeds, avocados, and oils like extra virgin olive oil. Unsaturated fats are good for heart health, and replacing saturated fats with monounsaturated fats has been found to decrease6 both LDL and HDL cholesterol levels.

#3 Reduce bad habits

Bad habits can include eating lots of junk food high in refined carbs and sugar. Refined and processed foods have been associated with many conditions and could contribute7 to poor heart health.

Additionally, smoking is known to have8 a negative effect on your heart health as well as your overall health, as is alcohol. Reducing these bad habits could help reduce your cholesterol levels back to optimal levels.

#4 Exercise

Exercise can improve your health in a number of ways, including helping you lower your cholesterol levels below 194mg/dL to get them within the optimum range. Research has been carried out to show that increasing your daily physical activity can improve cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.

#5 Take supplements and medications

There are many medications and supplements that can help to reduce LDL levels back below 194mg/dL. These include:

  • Statins – These are prescribed by a doctor and usually only in cases when changing lifestyle factors hasn’t worked. They reduce cholesterol production in the liver to reduce total cholesterol levels.
  • Ezetimibe – Usually prescribed to those with a family history of high total cholesterol, as well as those who have had side effects with statins.
  • Bile acid sequestrants – These may be prescribed in place of statins and help to block bile with too much cholesterol from being absorbed.
  • PCSK9 inhibitors – Usually for those at high risk of cardiovascular disease, this medicine is injected into your skin every 2–4 weeks and reduces total cholesterol.
  • Lomitapide – Prescribed to lower LDL level. Requires liver monitoring as it may cause liver damage.
  • Plant sterols and stanols9 – These are essentially cholesterol absorption inhibitors and should be used alongside dietary changes.
  • Beta-glucan – This is a form of soluble fiber which helps to absorb cholesterol and can help you reduce your LDL level.
  • Psyllium husk – Another kind of soluble fiber that is often found in fiber supplements. It can be added to your diet to reduce your LDL level.
  • Alpha-lipoic acid – This is a compound found in many plant foods, including beets, carrots, and spinach. It can be taken as a supplement and helps to reduce10 total cholesterol levels.
  • Green tea extract – Studies11 suggest that compounds in green tea can reduce LDL levels back within the optimal range.

It is important to note that medications to reduce LDL levels have to be prescribed by a doctor. If you’re considering supplements to reduce your total cholesterol, speak with your doctor to ensure they do not interact with any medications you are taking and to make sure they are safe and effective.

#6 Drink enough water

There is research to suggest12 that not drinking enough water can cause an increase in your total cholesterol. This means it is best for you to drink enough water each day. Aim for the recommended 2 liters of water daily for best results.

Other Ways to Reduce LDL Levels

Other ways to get your cholesterol level back below 194mg/dL include:

  • Losing weight if you are overweight or obese
  • Eating more fatty fish to get more omega-3 fatty acids in your body
  • Improving diabetes management if you have diabetes
Is it possible to have LDL cholesterol that’s too high?

Yes, it is possible for your LDL level to become too high. LDL cholesterol is considered the bad kind of cholesterol and increases risk factors for poor heart health.

Can high LDL cholesterol levels be dangerous?

Too much LDL cholesterol increases your risk of developing heart disease and stroke. It can also cause high blood pressure and atherosclerosis (narrowing of the blood vessels). It is best to keep your cholesterol levels within a healthy range.

References
  1. Get a Cholesterol Test. (2022). A medical article. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/cholesterol_screening.htm
  2. Sheldon G. Sheps, M.D. (2022). Blood pressure medications: Can they raise my triglycerides? Answer provided by Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/expert-answers/blood-pressure-medications/faq-20057975
  3. Yi-Kai Wang, Ying-Wen Wang, Chia-Ling Lu, Yi-Hsiang Huang, Ming-Chih Hou, Yuh-Lih Chang, Wei-Ping Lee, Keng-Hsin Lan. (2022). Sofosbuvir-based direct-acting antivirals and changes in cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol. A medical article. Scientific Reports: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-022-13657-5
  4. British Heart Foundation. (2022). High Cholesterol – Symptoms, Causes & Levels. Medical article. British Heart Foundation: https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/risk-factors/high-cholesterol 
  5. Ghada A. Soliman. (2019). Dietary Fiber, Atherosclerosis, and Cardiovascular Disease. A medical article. MDPI: https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/11/5/1155 
  6. Patty W. Siri-Tarino, Qi Sun, Frank B. Hu, Ronald M. Krauss. (2010). Saturated Fatty Acids and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease: Modulation by Replacement Nutrients. Medical research. SpringerLink: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11883-010-0131-6 
  7. Frank B Hu. (2010). Are refined carbohydrates worse than saturated fat? A journal. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/91/6/1541/4597147 
  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Team. (2022). Smoking and Heart Disease and Stroke. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/diseases/heart-disease-stroke.html 
  9. S. B Racette, X. Lin, M. Lefevre, C. A. Spearie, M. M Most, L. Ma, R. E Ostlund, Jr. (2010). Dose effects of dietary phytosterols on cholesterol metabolism: a controlled feeding study. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/91/1/32/4597163 
  10. S. M. Mousavi M.Sc., S. Shab-Bidar, Ph.D., H. Kord-Varkaneh, M.Sc., M. K. M.Sc., K.Djafarian, Ph.D. (2018). Effect of alpha-lipoic acid supplementation on lipid profile: A systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled clinical trials. A review article. ScienceDirect: https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0899900718309055 
  11. R. Xu, K. Yang, S. Li, M. Dai, G. Chen (2020). Effect of green tea consumption on blood lipids: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. A nutrition journal. Biomedcentral: https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12937-020-00557-5 
  12. M. Milla-Tobarra, A. García-Hermoso, N. Lahoz-García, B. Notario-Pacheco, L. Lucas-de la Cruz, D. P Pozuelo-Carrascosa, M. J. García-Meseguer, V. Martínez-Vizcaíno. (2016). The association between water intake, body composition and cardiometabolic factors among children – The Cuenca study. Nutricion Hospitalaria: https://www.nutricionhospitalaria.org/index.php/articles/00312/show 
HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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