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What Are the Total Cholesterol Levels? Ranges and Meanings

Total Cholesterol: 230mg/dL

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Written by Edibel Quintero, RD | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Published on January 13, 2023
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6 min

It’s crucial to maintain healthy cholesterol levels for a happy heart. In this article, we explain what total cholesterol is, what a reading of 230mg/dL means for your overall health, and 6 key strategies to bring elevated cholesterol levels back into the normal range.

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What Does a Total Cholesterol of 230mg/dL Mean?

Total cholesterol of 230mg/dL means you have elevated levels of cholesterol in your bloodstream. While your body needs blood cholesterol to perform important functions, too much cholesterol puts you at higher risk of developing heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Total cholesterol is the overall amount of cholesterol present in your blood. It includes the level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, or good cholesterol, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, also known as bad cholesterol. It also includes your triglyceride levels.

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that can build up and clog your arteries and blood vessels. It is critical to lower elevated cholesterol levels for your long-term health. Simple lifestyle changes can help you get your overall cholesterol level back in the healthy range below 200mg/dL.

Total cholesterol levelsmg/dL
Normal✅<199
Elevated ❌200–239
High ❌240<

How Often Is It Recommended to Measure Total Cholesterol Levels?

Most healthy people should get an overall cholesterol check every 4–6 years1 to ensure normal cholesterol levels. Those with health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes or those with a family history of high cholesterol should have a checkup yearly.

Children and teenagers should have theirs checked between the ages of 9 and 11 and again between the ages of 17 and 21. However, those with diabetes or obesity should be monitored for high cholesterol regularly.

A simple blood test at the doctor’s office will give your cholesterol numbers. Between tests, you can monitor your total cholesterol level with the Cardi Health app. You can record your cholesterol numbers to track your progress over time and ensure good heart health.

Storing your information in one place can help you monitor risk factors for heart attack and heart disease. It can also help to track and monitor high blood pressure and heart rate.

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What Causes Elevated Total Cholesterol?

Elevated cholesterol levels tend to occur as a result of various lifestyle factors. Adopting a healthy lifestyle is an essential strategy to lower cholesterol levels. It’s necessary to note, however, that high cholesterol can run in the family, meaning your genetics could play a role as well.

Let’s look at the leading risk factors of elevated or borderline high cholesterol.

  • Unhealthy diet rich in saturated fats, trans fats, and sugar
  • Low dietary fiber intake
  • Being overweight
  • Lack of exercise
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoking
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Certain medications
  • Certain health conditions and diseases, such as diabetes, kidney disease, and liver disease
  • Age (cholesterol levels tend to rise with age)
  • Family history

What Are the Symptoms of Elevated Cholesterol?

Elevated and high cholesterol levels do not have symptoms. There is only one way to tell if you have high blood cholesterol, and that is with a blood test. The test for cholesterol screening2 is called a lipid panel or lipid profile. It checks the balance of your HDL and LDL cholesterol levels.

Regular testing is essential as there is no way of knowing if you have unhealthy levels of low-density lipoproteins in your blood. Knowing this information allows you to make changes to lower your risk of heart disease and other heart health complications.

You can also keep your cholesterol numbers in check without a doctor’s trip. There are cholesterol test kits you can use at home for convenience and more frequent monitoring. However, always visit your doctor if you are at greater risk for heart disease.

How to Reduce Total Cholesterol Levels?

Many lifestyle changes can help you reduce cholesterol and cardiovascular disease risk. Looking at the way you live and treat your body is the first step to lowering a 250mg/dL reading. It will help raise your good cholesterol and decrease your bad cholesterol level.

Here are 6 ways to improve the total amount of cholesterol circulating in your blood:

#1 Consume enough soluble fiber

Soluble fiber is one of the best things you can eat to lower your cholesterol. Soluble fiber attracts water and becomes a gel-like substance in your digestive system. It binds to cholesterol and helps reduce the amount of cholesterol absorbed into the bloodstream.

Eat 5–10 grams or more of soluble fiber daily to decrease your LDL cholesterol. There are so many high-fiber foods you can include in your diet. Among the best examples are apples, avocados, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, black beans, kidney beans, flaxseeds, and oatmeal.

#2 Reduce saturated fat intake

Consuming too many foods containing saturated fat can quickly raise LDL cholesterol. Saturated fats tend to be hard at room temperature and include butter, lard, fatty cuts of meat, cured meats, and coconut oil. Baked goods and fried foods also contain high amounts of it.

Replace saturated fats and trans fat with foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids3. These are known as unsaturated fats and are good for your heart and cholesterol. Try to eat plenty of avocados, nuts, seeds, olives, and fatty fish, such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel.

#3 Reduce bad habits

Reducing bad habits that contribute to elevated cholesterol is an important step. Many bad habits are harmful to your health. While it’s tough to quit, doing so will drastically improve your general health and promote healthy cholesterol levels. There are always ways to improve.

Smoking4 is a major risk factor because it makes the bad cholesterol in your bloodstream stickier. This makes it easier to cling to your artery walls, clogging them up and eventually slowing blood flow through your arteries. 

Drinking a lot of alcohol is another bad habit that can raise LDL levels. It also raises triglyceride levels5 – a type of fat in your blood that can build up in the liver. When your liver can’t function as normal, it can no longer remove excess cholesterol from your bloodstream.

#4 Don’t forget to exercise

Exercise works wonders for your heart by increasing HDL levels and decreasing LDL cholesterol. Moving your body increases blood flow and stimulates the enzymes that help move LDL cholesterol from the blood, preventing buildup within the artery walls.

Staying active will also help you maintain a healthy body weight, reducing obesity and other risk factors for heart disease. Losing excess weight will naturally lower your cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and blood pressure. Try to get a minimum of 150 minutes6 of exercise weekly.

#5 Take supplements and medications

Taking dietary supplements and medications can help bring your levels down. Supplements can help improve your diet, although they should not be used as a replacement for nutritious foods. Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber supplements, beta-glucans, and green tea extract may help.

Your doctor may prescribe a cholesterol-lowering medication if lifestyle changes alone are not enough to improve cholesterol numbers. Statins7 are the most popular medicines as they decrease how much cholesterol your body makes. Others include ezetimibe, fibrates, and resins.

#6 Manage stress

Stress can affect your physical and mental health in multiple ways, including raising your cholesterol levels. Chronic stress can trigger hormonal changes8 that produce more cholesterol in your body. It can also cause high blood pressure and high blood sugar levels.

Try to manage your stress levels as best you can. Many good techniques can promote stress relief, such as exercising, meditating, stretching, journaling, and connecting with others. Practicing self-care daily will help you better manage anxiety and stress levels.

Other Ways to Reduce Elevated Cholesterol Levels

Below, you can find additional ways to lower high cholesterol.

  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Eat more whole fruits and vegetables
  • Drink more water daily
  • Choose lean protein sources over fatty cuts
  • Limit added sugar and refined carbohydrates
  • Limit trans fat
  • Maintain blood sugar control
From what age is it recommended to check total cholesterol levels?

According to current guidelines, people should begin cholesterol screening between the ages of 9 and 11, with a follow-up between the ages of 17 and 21. After that, adults can test every 4–6 years if they do not have other health issues such as diabetes and obesity.

What makes the most impact on high total cholesterol?

A diet high in saturated fat contributes the most to high cholesterol. Limiting how much saturated fat you eat is vital, as these fats raise your LDL cholesterol, otherwise known as bad cholesterol. High LDL levels put you at high risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

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. J. H. Sundjaja, S.l Pandey. (2022). Cholesterol Screening. National Center for Biotechnology Information: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK560894/
  3. K. Krupa, K. Fritz, M. Parmar. (2022). Omega-3 Fatty Acids. A Book. National Center for Biotechnology Information: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33231984/ 
  4. R. B. Jain, A. Ducatman. (2018). Associations between smoking and lipid/lipoprotein concentrations among US adults aged ≥20 years. A review. Journal of Circulating Biomarkers: https://journals.aboutscience.eu/index.php/jcb/article/view/2089 
  5. Cleveland Clinic Medical Team. (2022). Triglycerides and Heart Health. A Blog Article. Cleveland Clinic: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/17583-triglycerides–heart-health
  6. Yun Jun Yang. (2019). An Overview of Current Physical Activity Recommendations in Primary Care. A review article. Korean Journal of Family Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6536904/
  7. O. Sizar, S. Khare, Radia T. Jamil; Raja Talati. (2022). Statin Medications. National Center for Biotechnology Information: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430940/ 
  8. Constantine Tsigos, MD, PhD, Ioannis Kyrou, MD, PhD, M.Ed., FHEA, Eva Kassi, MD, PhD, and George P. Chrousos, MD, MACP, MACE, FRCP. (2020). Stress: Endocrine Physiology and Pathophysiology. A Book. National Center for Biotechnology Information: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK278995/ 
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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