The Earlier, The Better
There’s no shortage of awareness that maintaining healthy cholesterol levels can help you avoid cardiovascular troubles. Most men assume that restricting their diet and following all the recommended tips to help keep cholesterol levels low are for men in their 60s. That is simply not true. By the time you’re 60, a lot of damage has been done to your heart if you have let your cholesterol levels go unchecked.
We are hoping to create awareness among middle-aged men that care and caution are advised well before you reach your 60s. Cholesterol levels and triglycerides tend to rise quite early in life, especially if you have a genetic predisposition, as many men do. This is why it’s important to start taking your cholesterol levels seriously once you turn 50 (or even before then!)
Healthy Cholesterol Levels
According to the American Heart Association, healthy cholesterol levels are lower than 200 mg/dl. Cholesterol levels between 200 and 239 mg/dl are said to be borderline. And if your cholesterol levels are nearing 240 mg/dl, it means your cardiovascular health is at risk.
HDL and LDL Cholesterol
LDL is the bad cholesterol. If it increases in your blood, it will slowly and steadily deposit itself on the inner walls of your arteries. When this buildup of LDL cholesterol mixes up with other substances in your blood, a plaque can be formed on your artery walls. It’s a medical condition called atherosclerosis. To be safe, your LDL cholesterol level should not exceed 100 mg/dl.
HDL cholesterol is the healthy cholesterol (think “H” for healthy!); it protects your heart from potential diseases. HDL cholesterol helps to fight the accumulation of arterial plaque. Lower levels leave your heart at risk to the effects of LDL plaque formation. The minimum healthy level of HDL cholesterol in your blood is 60 mg/dl and anything less than 40 mg/dl in men is considered a warning sign, and indicates a potential risk of heart disease.
Doctors will often use the ASCVD Risk Calculator to asses your heart health and potential risk over the next 10 years.
The Best Ways to Maintain Cholesterol Levels
You don’t have to wait for your cholesterol levels to creep towards the danger zone. Once you hit your 50s, it’s time to keep a proper and timely check on your cholesterol levels. Here’s what you need to do to achieve healthy cholesterol levels:
- Avoid consuming foods rich in saturated fats, cholesterol, trans-fats, and carbohydrates. The AHA recommends less than 6% of your diet should be comprised of saturated fats.
- Avoid drinking too much alcohol. Over consumption can increase triglycerides in the blood.
- Don’t let your weight exceed normal limits. Being overweight increases the levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. If you’re confused about weight, then follow what CDC says. According to CDC, a body-mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9 is optimal.
- Say no to smoking! Smoking continues to lower the level of HDL cholesterol in your blood, which increases the risk of heart diseases, hypertension, and heart attack (remember “H” for healthy!)
- Keep moving! An active lifestyle is very important to keep your cholesterol levels balanced and under control. Do your best to make sure you exercise for about 30 minutes at least 5 times a week, and 150 minutes in total. Lots of movement qualifies as exercise: brisk walking, yard work, swimming, cycling, etc.
Find Out Family History When Possible
Some men with a family history involving high cholesterol levels might experience a rise in their cholesterol levels even after taking care of their diet and health. For them, it’s vital that they step into the preventive mode well before they turn 50. If changes in your lifestyle don’t produce the desired results, you may need cholesterol-lowering medication, so talk to your physician about the right medication for you.