Normal cholesterol levels…just what are they?  This is hard to determine because what is normal for one person is not normal for another. There is only a range where experts generally agree the risk of heart disease either increases or decreases when your cholesterol level falls outside of that range.

That’s about the best modern medicine can do, because of the many other factors involved in heart disease, and the fact that there is really no “normal level” just a normal cholesterol range.

The following table will help define what normal cholesterol levels are said to be by the American Heart Association:

American Heart Association Guidelines
Desirable Borderline Risk
High Risk
Total Cholesterol
200 or less
200-239
240 and over
HDL
60 or higher
40 to 59
40 or less (men)
HDL
60 or higher
50 to 59
50 or less (women)
LDL
less than 100
130-159
160-189
Triglycerides
less than 150
150-199
200-499

Normal Cholesterol Range and Hear Disease Risk

Keep in mind that these so called normal cholesterol levels are not absolutes, they are statistical representations of risk based on data that has been accumulated from studies and patient populations. What that all means is that they are scientific guesses!

Also bear in mind that the pharmaceutical industry CAN and DOES influence guidelines for normal cholesterol levels and risk factors, because it is to their advantage to do so. When the guidelines lower the threshold at which a person is said to be “at risk” more drugs are prescribed by doctors based on those guidelines.

This is very good for the drug companies because it boosts their sales of statin drugs, but it is NOT so good for patients, because they are being given drugs with toxic side effects based on an assessed “risk” that has been influenced by the companies that make the drugs.

So use the normal cholesterol levels in the above chart as just a guide, and focus on lowering cholesterol naturally, as well as inflammation. When you use natural methods, your body will normalize it’s cholesterol levels to what is appropriate for YOU.

You will be much healthier for it and will avoid toxic medications. These drugs can themselves create life threatening side effects which may be as bad or worse than the medical condition they are supposed to prevent.

Normal Cholesterol Levels vs HDL Ratio

The chart above also references what we call the HDL/LDL ratio. This is the ratio of the so called “good cholesterol” vs the “bad cholesterol.” This ration is actually more important as a risk factor than the total cholesterol level, because HDL is said to protect against heart disease.

There are many ways to raise HDL levels which when you think about it may also raise your total cholesterol level. However remember that the higher the HDL level, the less chance of heart disease, so raising HDL is something you definitely want to do.

Some of the strategies I will show you in this blog will both lower LDL and raise HDL. So DO think about this in terms of achieving this healthy ratio, rather than getting hung up on just the total cholesterol numbers, and what normal cholesterol levels are supposed to be. Remember that this ratio is more important than just being in the normal cholesterol range.

Cholesterol production vs serum cholesterol

Serum cholesterol is the amount of cholesterol detected in your blood. Your body actually makes cholesterol, which is a perfectly normal and natural function. Unless you have a genetic defect, it won’t make too much cholesterol.

Your focus when achieve a normal cholesterol level should be diet, exercise, and nutritional supplements! Statin drugs prevent your body from making cholesterol which is a dangerous thing to do.

The correct way to achieve so called normal cholesterol levels is making sure your body has low levels of inflammation, and helping your body clear excess cholesterol from your system, rather than allowing it to be cycled back into your bloodstream again.

Cholesterol too low, how can this be a problem? We have all heard about the supposed relationship of heart disease to cholesterol levels, so we assume that lower is better. NOT SO!

cholesterol too lowEverything in your body is based on maintaining a balance, and cholesterol profiles are no exception.  Low cholesterol levels can be just as unhealthy as levels that are too high.

The belief that simply lowering cholesterol will protect you from heart attacks has been encouraged by the pharmaceutical industry and those medical professionals that serve it.  While cholesterol is a factor, there are other things involved such as inflammation, that make a big difference.

The risks of various serious medical conditions rise for those individuals having a total cholesterol level of under 160 mg/dl (milligrams per deciliter).  That said, some experts recommend that the ideal is somewhere between 180mg/dl and 200mg/dl for total cholesterol, (but even this is subject to controversy)

What causes low cholesterol?

Cholesterol that’s too low can be caused by:

  • Use of statin drugs
  • Malnutrition
  • Malabsorption – inadequate absorption of nutrients from the intestines
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Liver dysfunction
  • Manganese deficiency
  • Celiac disease
  • Leukemia and other blood diseases

Please note:  Excessively low cholesterol levels need to be evaluated by a trained medical professional to determine the cause and the proper treatment. It is important not only to know what causes low cholesterol, but also having a proper treatment strategy in place to make sure you address it.

When you optimize cholesterol naturally, this is not a problem, because you are not trying to curtail your own body’s production of cholesterol, but rather preventing re-absorption through the large intestine.

You will NOT bring your cholesterol too low with this approach.

Effects of low cholesterol

Hypocholesterolemia – cholesterol too low, has been associated with a number of serious medical disorders such as:

  • Reduced production of your body’s steroid hormones
  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Increased risk of heart disease
  • Increased risk of strokes
  • Increased risk of depression/bipolar disorder
  • Increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Possible loss of memory
  • Increased risk of suicide
  • Increased risk of schizophrenia

Effects of low cholesterol are very serious, and you need to focus not on simply lowering cholesterol, but achieving a healthy level based on your individual biochemistry.  With cholesterol too low, many vital chemical processes can’t be completed properly.

Cholesterol too low? – So what is the right approach?

The correct approach is not to simply focus on lowering cholesterol, just as weight loss should not simply be about losing weight.  Rather than making your cholesterol too low, this process will allow you to achieve the right balance.

That process includes:

  • Proper eating
  • Proper exercise
  • Nutritional supplementation
  • Stress reduction

Proper eating should include foods that are low in cholesterol but also nutrient dense, and which contain plenty of fiber. This is because fiber can absorb excess cholesterol as it passes through the large intestine and is then excreted out of the body in the stool.  The recommended fiber consumption is about 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men.

Proper exercise is short and intense, like interval training, but ultimately should be moderated by the age and physical condition of the person doing it. Be cautious and seek professional guidance in setting up an exercise program if you are an older person, or if you have a serious medical condition.

Nutritional supplementation should include full spectrum vitamin and mineral formula. A high quality fish oil is also a key supplement that will lower your risk of heart disease and every other medical condition you can think of. Sufficient levels of omega 3 fatty acids are essential to good health, and fish oil supplies these.

Stress reduction uses various techniques to lower stress and promote relaxation and tranquility. Among these, grounding is one of the most effective. Other strategies like meditation, the speed trace, and various other relaxation techniques can be very effective.

Having your cholesterol too low is a risk factor for chronic disease. A balanced approach, rather than just low cholesterol levels is the answer. Doing the things mentioned above should allow you to naturally achieve the right balance.

What are optimal cholesterol numbers? Doesn’t this contradict the latest theory that cholesterol does NOT cause heart disease. The truth is that it is a “factor” but not the “cause”!

cholesterol numbersHow do we establish what the optimal levels for LDL and HDL are? These are important questions because the idea that cholesterol specifically causes heart disease is so deeply ingrained in the average person (and most doctors as well).

This is a difficult question to answer definitively because the issue is just so complex. I can tell you what some of the guidelines are, and of course they vary from one source to another. There is a generally accepted “optimal range” for cholesterol numbers.

Here are the guidelines issued by the American Heart Association.

 

Desirable Borderline Risk High Risk
Total Cholesterol 200 or less 200-239 240 and over
HDL 60 or higher 40-59 40 or less (men)
HDL 60 or higher 50-59 50 or less (women)
LDL less than 100 130-159 160-189
Triglycerides less than 150 150-199 200-499

 

 

 

 

 

Keep in mind that these guidelines somewhat reflect the influence of the drug industry and their attempts to increase their market for cholesterol lowering drugs called “statins.”

The recommended cholesterol numbers keep being adjusted downward, in my opinion in order to get doctors to prescribe more statin drugs which of course boots revenues of the drug industry.

In addition, there are other tests which are called “inflammatory markers,” that have a direct bearing on your risk for developing heart disease, and these tests should also be used to more accurately determine what your overall risk of cardiovascular disease is.

Once you know your level of risk based on the latest tests and analysis of particle types, then you can target your lifestyle strategies (exercise, diet, and stress reduction) to protect your heart health. This should always be the end point of ANY testing…a program to address whatever risks the tests have identified.

What really DOES Causes Heart Disease?

Here’s a simplified explanation. Heart disease is caused by inflammation. That is what actually damages the lining of your arteries. As Dr. Stephen Sinatra likes to say “Cholesterol is found at the scene of the crime, but it’s not the perpetrator!”

When arteries are damaged, your body uses LDL to try and repair the damage, kind of like patching holes in a wall. Obviously the LDL did not cause the damage, but gets attached to the artery walls and accumulates eventually clogging the artery. This is called an “occlusion.”

When the LDL particles that stick to your arteries become oxidized and thus inflammatory, the process of arteriosclerosis begins. This is where the small highly inflammatory LDL particles called HP(a) come in.

So again, the cholesterol did not initiate the process of heart disease, but it IS an important factor in the progression of heart disease. With that out of the way, lets move on…

Focus on Particle Size and Type, Not Just Cholesterol Numbers

The real focus should be on the type and particle size NOT just the levels. According to Dr. Stephen Sinatra, an integrative cardiologist who is board certified by the American College of Cardiology, if your LDL particles are large and fluffy then you really don’t need to worry so much about your LDL levels.

However if the LDL’s are small dense highly inflammatory particles, then your risk is greatly elevated. There is a test that measures for these small inflammatory particles (HP(a)), called the Lipoprotein Particle Profile (LPP) test.

The LPP test measures the level of HP(a) which is a small dense LDL particle which is very toxic and inflammatory to the blood, potentially causing your blood to become “hyper-coagulated” which is another word for sticky and more likely to clot.

The takeaway message is that if you have this dangerous inflammatory LDL particle, then obviously the higher your total cholesterol numbers, the more of this dangerous particle you have, and the greater your risk. Simply stated, high levels matter when you have dangerous LDL particles in your blood.

So in closing, optimal cholesterol numbers are totally dependent on particle size and type. If your cholesterol particles are the small dense inflammatory type, then you need to make a greater effort to lower your levels.

If your LDL type is large and non-inflammatory, then your total levels are not something to be overly concerned about. You should take the time to consult with an integrative cardiologist to determine how best to manage your heart health.