Cholesterol in Seniors

Posted On :  Dec 01, 2013

High cholesterol is not something we come down with, like the cold or the flu. Nor is it merely part of the food we eat. Rather, it’s a condition that arises from the complex interaction between how we eat and live and how our bodies react to those choices.

How Cholesterol Works and What Those Numbers Mean

Only one quarter of blood cholesterol is actually ingested as dietary cholesterol, like the cholesterol in eggs or in shrimp. The other three quarters of cholesterol is produced in the liver and, once linked with carrier proteins known as lipoproteins, flows throughout the body in the bloodstream along with dietary cholesterol. Too much cholesterol, however, has a tendency to build up in the arteries as plaque, slowing or blocking blood flow. The buildup of plaque can occur throughout the body’s arteries, but it’s most evident when it occurs in the coronary arteries, not allowing enough blood to get to the heart. This can lead to heart disease, the greatest long-term risk of high cholesterol.

Not all cholesterol, however, is bad.Low-density lipoproteins(LDL) are known as “bad cholesterol” and carry cholesterol from the liver to the rest of the body, though too much LDL can build up as plaque in the coronary arteries.High-density lipoproteins(HDL), also known as “good cholesterol,” are the other variable in the equation, carrying cholesterol back to the liver for elimination from the body. When we hear that we have high cholesterol, it generally means that we need to lower our LDL level and to increase our HDL level, though each person is different and should always follow the guidance of his or her doctor. The following cholesterol levels are considered healthy for most adults:

Total blood cholesterol level: less than200mg/dL

LDL cholesterol level: less than100mg/dL

HDL cholesterol level: greater than40mg/dLfor men,50mg/dLfor women

The Complex Picture of Cholesterol and Heart Disease

Cholesterol levels cannot be considered in isolation from the many other risk factors that affect heart disease:

Age (45 or older for men, 55 or older for women)


High blood pressure


Family history of early heart disease

Low HDL levels

When two or more of the above risk factors are present in addition to cholesterol, reducing total cholesterol level, particularly LDL, becomes imperative. The following LDL levels, when coupled with the above risk factors, are considered too high:

LDL level of190mg/dL or higher, and none or one of the heart disease risk factors

LDL level of130mg/dL or higher, and two or more risk factors

LDL level of100mg/dL or higher, already have heart disease or diabetes, or two or more risk factors

LDL level of70mg/dL or higher, have heart disease with multiple risk factors (especially diabetes), and poorly controlled risk factors (like continuing to smoke, low HDL, etc.)

These standards, however, hardly tell the whole story when it comes to cholesterol in seniors.

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