Cholesterol in the blood: normal indicators and reasons for the increase

Table of contents
MOSCOW, September 30 – Novosti. The level of cholesterol in a person’s blood is one of the important indicators of health, which must be closely monitored. What problems can high and low levels of a substance lead to, how to distinguish “bad” and “good” cholesterol, a table of indicators according to gender and age, how the norm changes after 50 years and how cholesterol is analyzed – in the material Novosti.


Among the townsfolk, cholesterol is notorious. After all, it is he who is directly involved in the formation of atherosclerotic plaques. And, as a result, it can lead to the development of atherosclerosis with all the ensuing consequences for the cardiovascular system and for human health in general.
At the same time, in essence, this organic compound cannot be unambiguously considered harmful. Cholesterol, whose name in Greek sounds like “solid bile”, refers to lipids (or fatty alcohols) and plays an important role in ensuring the normal functioning of the human body.
Most cholesterol (in the medical literature you can also find the name cholesterol) is produced directly in the human body, primarily the liver is responsible for this process. Part of the cholesterol comes from outside, with various food products, primarily of animal origin.
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Test tube with a blood sample - Novosti, 1920, 09/30/2022
Test tube with blood sample


One of the main purposes of cholesterol in the human body is that it is used in cells as a building material, as it is part of the cell membrane. In addition, the substance takes part in metabolic processes, and is also necessary for the production of certain hormones (for example, estrogens and testosterone) and vitamin D.


In human blood, cholesterol in its pure form is practically not contained. It is one of the elements of lipoproteins (compounds that also contain proteins). These substances are divided into two large groups – high density lipoproteins, as well as low and very low density. It is they who are popularly called, respectively, “good” and “bad” cholesterol.
Low-density lipoproteins can only be called “bad” conditionally. In fact, they also perform a number of important functions in the human body (for example, cleanse it of toxins). However, at the same time, cholesterol tends to settle on the walls of blood vessels and form the very atherosclerotic plaques. If there are too many such lipoproteins in the body, fat deposits gradually increase and can cause complications (up to a heart attack and similar ailments).
“The main cause of cardiovascular diseases is vascular damage. There are a number of factors due to which blood vessels can be damaged, among them are hypertension, diabetes mellitus , lack of antioxidants, frequent alcohol consumption, smoking, and so on,” says Guzel Likhtina , physician at the Biorise Clinic – Under the influence of these factors, the vessel is damaged, and then cholesterol comes into play. Through the damaged endothelium, cholesterol penetrates into the vessel and, as the main defender, hurries to “patch” the wall. If a person has an increased level of “bad” cholesterol, then it quickly sticks to the wall of the vessel, calcium, collagen join it – and as a result, an atherosclerotic plaque begins to grow.
© Depositphotos / angellodeco
Test tubes with blood in a laboratory centrifuge - Novosti, 1920, 09/30/2022
Test tubes with blood in a laboratory centrifuge
In turn, “good” cholesterol helps to cleanse the walls of blood vessels from plaque accumulated there. That is why it is important to know not only the total level of a substance in the blood, but also the ratio of lipoproteins.

Lipidogram analysis

An appropriate blood test will help determine the current level of cholesterol in the blood, as well as find out the ratio of its “bad” and “good” varieties.
Blood for cholesterol is taken from a vein. As a result of biochemical analysis , one of the points of which is total cholesterol, a person can find out how much of the substance is currently circulating in his blood. At the same time, it is forbidden to drink alcohol before the study, you need to avoid stress, overly emotional reactions and physical exertion, 12 hours before the analysis, you should refuse any meals.
Similar restrictions apply before the analysis to determine the lipid profile, or lipid profile. This is an extended study, which determines not only the total amount of cholesterol in the blood, but also the ratio of various types of lipoproteins, as well as the level of triglycerides and the atherogenic index. This type of research provides more complete and detailed information.
Both one and the other type of study, as a rule, are prescribed in order to determine how high the risk of developing cardiovascular pathologies is for a particular person, as well as to monitor the patient’s condition with existing problems. In this case, two types of units of measurement can be used – mg / dl or mmol / l.
© Depositphotos / DragonImages
A medical worker writes down the results of a blood test - Novosti, 1920, 09/30/2022
Health worker writing down the results of a blood test
Only a doctor should deal with the interpretation of the test results, since based on the results of these studies, it is necessary to develop the right treatment tactics and decide whether any medications should be prescribed to a person and, if so, which drugs should be chosen.
It is also important to understand that deviations from the norm in relation to cholesterol levels will not always manifest themselves as specific symptoms, which means that a person may not be aware of the problem for a long time. In order to detect possible malfunctions in the body in time and take the necessary measures, it is recommended, even in the absence of complaints, to regularly take tests for prevention.

Age norm table

Norm of total cholesterol (mmol / l)


Women, minimum

Women, maximum

Men, minimum

Men, maximum

20-30 years old





30-40 years old





40-50 years old





50-60 years old





60-70 years old





71 years and older





Normal levels of total cholesterol for children:


Minimum (mmol/l)

Maximum (mmol/l)










The level of cholesterol in the blood, which can be considered normal, largely depends on the sex, age and health of a particular person, already existing health problems and other indicators. On average, the optimal total cholesterol for a healthy person should vary from 3 to 5 mmol / l.
“The level of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) or the difference between the level of cholesterol and the level of high-density lipoproteins (non-HDL) is now used as markers,” says Aron Osmanovich , an expert at the Medical Faculty of the Synergy University. – In addition, you can use the assessment of coronary calcium, highly sensitive C-reactive protein and the level of lipoprotein A. The target value is determined individually, based on the level of blood pressure, age, sex, the presence of a habit of smoking .”
However, the following indicators are often used to determine the norm of cholesterol:
© Depositphotos / ivanriver
Taking a blood test from a woman - Novosti, 1920, 09/30/2022
Taking a blood sample from a woman
For women , the level of total cholesterol in the blood at different periods of life can vary in the range from 3.3 to 5.2 mmol / l. For men – 3.6 – 5.2 mmol / l.
“In my practice, I focus on the following norm indicators, as the most reliable and adequate,” says Guzel Likhtina. – Total cholesterol: 4.14 – 4.65 mmol / l, HDL – optimally 1.42-1.81 mmol / l, VLDL – 0.26 – 1.04 mmol / l and LDL – 1.71-2.59 mmol / l “.
With age, the level of cholesterol in the blood tends to increase, and therefore for citizens aged 50 to 60 years and older, the normal range can already be up to 7 mmol / l.
Controlling cholesterol in the blood is important and necessary not only for the elderly and adult citizens. For children, this indicator is also important, because even the youngest patients run the risk of problems associated with too high levels of this component. Like adults, children’s cholesterol levels change with age.

Cholesterol levels during pregnancy

Like many other indicators, the level of cholesterol in the blood of a pregnant woman begins to change and may increase. And sometimes this figure can reach 10 mmol / l and even higher.
But since any processes occurring in the body of a pregnant woman can affect the health of the child, elevated cholesterol levels must be monitored by a doctor without fail. This will avoid possible complications.

Elevated blood cholesterol

A condition in which the level of cholesterol in the blood is markedly higher than normal is called hypercholesterolemia. As a rule, this diagnosis is made to a person if the level of cholesterol in his blood rises to 6.5 mmol / l or more. The higher the cholesterol level, the greater the risk of facing dangerous consequences. Especially when it comes to “bad” lipoproteins.

What is dangerous

Atherosclerotic plaques are made up of cholesterol, which means that an excess of it in the blood can cause atherosclerosis, a dangerous disease that affects the arteries and disrupts their main function. If a very high level of cholesterol remains in the human body for a long time, then the plaques that appear on the walls of the vessels begin to grow, and the lumen of the artery, accordingly, narrows, which leads to impaired blood circulation. At the same time, the vessels themselves suffer, which become less elastic.

The reasons

If a person has an increased level of cholesterol in the blood, this clearly indicates a violation of lipid metabolism in the body. This can happen for various reasons, for example, with kidney disease, diabetes, problems with the endocrine system, and so on. Also, hypercholesterolemia is often observed in overweight citizens, as well as in those who do not favor regular physical activity.
© Depositphotos / yacobchuk1
The procedure for donating blood in the laboratory - Novosti, 1920, 09/30/2022
Blood donation procedure in the laboratory
Unhealthy diet, as well as not the most healthy lifestyle, also has an impact. Even for a person who does not have health problems, it is important to remember which foods contain the most cholesterol and not to abuse them. First of all, we are talking about meat and dairy products with a high fat content, eggs (mainly cholesterol is in the yolk), various pastries, flour products, and so on. Also increase the level of “bad” cholesterol in the blood products, which include palm oil.
The factor of heredity cannot be discounted either: often the predisposition to problems with cholesterol is inherent in the human body almost from birth.


Elevated cholesterol for a long time may not manifest itself. This problem has practically no specific manifestations.
But there are a number of external symptoms by which cholesterol problems can be suspected. These, for example, include xanthelasmas (flat xanthomas) – rather dense fatty formations of a yellowish hue that appear on the eyelids of a person suffering from hypercholesterolemia.
Another symptom of high cholesterol, according to scientists, can be grayish-white rings around the cornea of ​​​​the eyes, which doctors call the corneal arch .
If elevated cholesterol levels persist for a long time, blood vessels begin to suffer. This may show up:
  • violation of the heart rhythm;
  • pain in the chest and heart during stress or physical activity;
  • the appearance of shortness of breath;
  • leg cramps ;
  • memory problems, etc.
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Test tubes with blood samples in the laboratory - Novosti, 1920, 09/30/2022
Test tubes with blood samples in the laboratory

Reduced blood cholesterol

Since cholesterol plays an important role in the human body, its decrease below the level considered normal is considered undesirable. This condition is called hypocholesterolemia and is fixed if total cholesterol drops to less than 3 mmol / l.

What is dangerous

Hypocholesterolemia has no less serious complications than excess cholesterol. The most serious consequences include:
  • serious pathologies of the liver and cardiovascular system, associated with the fact that the available amount of cholesterol is no longer enough to fully perform all its functions;
  • decreased production of cholesterol-related hormones;
  • depression.

The reasons

The cause of a pathological decrease in the level of cholesterol in the blood can be various liver diseases, as well as problems with the thyroid gland and the gastrointestinal tract (in which dietary cholesterol is not absorbed enough), various types of anemia , some infections and other ailments.
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In addition, this indicator may also decrease as a result of taking certain medications.
Low cholesterol levels can also be observed in citizens who have severely limited or completely eliminated animal products from their diet. Also, among the possible causes of hypocholesterolemia, strong and prolonged stresses are often indicated.


To determine that the level of cholesterol in the human body has decreased to alarming levels, with absolute certainty is possible only with the help of an appropriate analysis. However, the following signals may serve as a reason for conducting such a study:
  • loss of appetite (up to its almost complete disappearance);
  • violation of the chair;
  • general weakness;
  • enlarged lymph nodes;
  • decrease in mood.

Treatment and normalization of cholesterol in the blood

If, according to the results of an analysis for cholesterol, a deviation from the norm was found in a person, then the doctor can both prescribe appropriate drugs for him and advise him to adjust the diet and habitual lifestyle in general.
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How to lower cholesterol

An increase in the level of cholesterol in the blood can be influenced not only by malfunctions of the body, but also by factors such as a sedentary lifestyle, excess weight, and so on. So, if a person needs to return this indicator to the normal range, he will have to change his lifestyle: change his diet (less fatty and fried foods, more fiber, vegetables and fruits, foods rich in healthy fats, as well as enough water, etc.). move more and exercise moderately, give up certain foods.
There are also special groups of drugs that are prescribed for high cholesterol. Statins help to take this indicator under control (primarily by lowering the content of “bad” cholesterol). However, the decision to prescribe them should be made exclusively by a doctor, since such drugs have serious side effects. For example, they can very adversely affect the liver.
“Since most of the cholesterol is synthesized by the liver, and the rest comes from the outside (with food), it is first of all recommended to minimize fatty animal foods, cheeses, butter, eggs in the diet if cholesterol is abnormal, says the therapist, senior medical consultant “Teledoktor24” by Ney Georgiev. “And only in the absence of an effect on the background of the diet, the appointment of statins is recommended (under the control of liver enzymes – ALT and AST).”
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“In addition to statins, there are blockers of cholesterol absorption and immunobiological drugs – antibodies to cholesterol regulation factors,” adds Aron Osmanovich.
Cardiologist Yuri Meshcheryakov recommends that people with high cholesterol start exercising at least half an hour a day. In his opinion, without movement, drug treatment is ineffective, and with the right diet and exercise, cholesterol levels can decrease by 20-30 percent.

How to raise cholesterol

Do not assume that the uncontrolled consumption of fatty, fried and other junk food will help to adjust the performance. Most likely, as a result, only the level of “bad” cholesterol will rise in a person, which will not bring any benefit to the human body. Therefore, it is possible to adjust nutrition, but very carefully and choosing the most healthy foods (for example, fatty fish, nuts, and so on).
Moderate exercise can help raise your “good” cholesterol levels. This does not mean that you need to disappear into the gym every day. Even regular exercises in the morning will already benefit.
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An almost obligatory item in the program in the fight against any deviations from the norm in the results of the analysis for cholesterol is the correction of the daily diet. And this is despite the fact that only a small part of the substance enters the body along with what you drink and eat. High or low cholesterol – Citizens facing this problem should reduce to a minimum those foods that are considered the main sources of “bad” cholesterol. These include, for example, foods high in saturated fats (red meat and its products, butter, certain seafood, offal, high-fat dairy products, lard, sausage, and others), as well as fast food and other products, in containing trans fats.
It is better to give preference to lean meats, eat less fried foods, replacing them with boiled, stewed or baked foods. Chicken eggs, by the way, can be consumed, but in moderation. It is worth carefully monitoring that the diet has enough fiber, as well as foods containing pectin and healthy fatty acids.
According to the cardiologist Elisabeth Klodas, in order to achieve a significant reduction in the level of “bad” cholesterol, you need to include several foods in the diet . Oatmeal is rich in fiber, which reduces the amount of cholesterol absorbed by the digestive system. Also on the list are almonds (which can be replaced with hazelnuts, walnuts, pistachios or macadamia nuts), chia seeds (thanks to omega-3 fatty acids that help increase “good” cholesterol), watermelons (due to their lycopene), which can also be replaced with apples, grapes, strawberries, citrus fruits or avocados, vegetables – especially broccoli, spinach, Brussels sprouts and collards.
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The best way to prevent any disease is the timely identification of existing problems in the body, followed by the adoption of the necessary measures. Even if nothing bothers a person outwardly, it is recommended to control the level of cholesterol in the blood for citizens who already have certain problems with the cardiovascular system, as well as smokers, overweight patients and the elderly, women during menopause and after 40 years .
The right lifestyle plays a big role. Fighting bad habits, paying attention to your own diet, abandoning a sedentary lifestyle in favor of moderate activity – all this contributes to staying healthy for many years.
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