Recommended total cholesterol levels are under 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) for adults and under 170 mg/dL for children. Females typically need more HDL (good) cholesterol than males.

Cholesterol is a fatty substance your liver makes. Your body produces all of the cholesterol that it needs to function. However, cholesterol is also found in certain foods.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), having too much of the bad type of cholesterol, known as low-density lipoprotein (LDL), could put you at risk of certain health conditions.

Keep reading to learn more about the recommended cholesterol levels by age.

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Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to the sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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A healthcare professional will use a lipid panel blood test to measure the overall amount of cholesterol in your blood. This is known as total cholesterol, which consists of three lipids:

  • Low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) carry cholesterol through your bloodstream. LDL is called “bad” cholesterol because high amounts can form plaques in your blood vessels, increasing your risk for heart disease.
  • High-density lipoproteins (HDLs) help protect you from heart disease. HDL is called “good” cholesterol because it carries cholesterol back to your liver, which is then excreted from your body.
  • Triglycerides are another type of fat that could build up in your body. They’re the “building blocks” of cholesterol.

High levels of triglycerides and low levels of HDL raise your risk for heart disease.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that adults have their cholesterol checked every 4–6 years, starting at age 20 years. This is when cholesterol levels can start to rise.

According to the 2018 guidelines on the management of blood cholesterol published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC), these are the acceptable, borderline, and high measurements for adults.

All values are in mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter) and are based on fasting measurements.

Total cholesterolHDL cholesterolLDL cholesterolTriglycerides
GoodLess than 200 (the lower, the better)Ideal is 60 or higher; but, 40+ for males or 50+ for females is acceptableLess than 100; below 70 if coronary artery disease is presentLess than 149; ideal is under 100
Borderline to moderately elevated200–239n/a130–159150–199
High240 or higher60 or higher
160 or higher; 190 is considered very high
200 or higher; 500 is considered very high
Lown/aless than 40 for men and less than 50 for womenn/an/a

Guidelines are similar for males and females over the age of 20 years. However, they may differ when it comes to HDL cholesterol, as seen above. Females should aim for higher levels of HDL cholesterol.

Several factors may affect a child’s risk of having high cholesterol, including:

The CDC recommends children have their cholesterol checked between ages 9–11 years, and again between ages 17–21 years. Children with more risk factors, such as diabetes or obesity, may need to be checked more often.

According to the JACC, the following are the recommended cholesterol levels for children, with all values in mg/dL:

Total cholesterolHDL cholesterolLDL cholesterolTriglycerides
Good170 or lessGreater than 45Less than 110Less than 75 in children 0–9; less than 90 in children 10–19
Borderline170–19940-45110–12975–99 in children 0–9; 90–129 in children 10–19
High200 or highern/a130 or higher100 or more in children 0–9; 130 or more in children 10–19
Lown/aLess than 40n/an/a

A healthcare professional may recommend a treatment plan for high cholesterol. This will vary based on factors like other medications you may be taking, your age, sex, and general health.

Your treatment plan may include lifestyle and dietary changes, as well as medication.

Some medications commonly prescribed for high cholesterol include:

Medications can also be used to treat contributing factors to cholesterol like triglycerides. These may be used in addition to some of the medications above.

Some lifestyle changes are reasonably effective in helping you reduce cholesterol levels. They’re also fairly straightforward and can be done at any age and within most abilities.

Here are some lifestyle changes that could help reduce your cholesterol levels:

There are few noticeable symptoms of high cholesterol. Emergency symptoms such as a stroke or heart attack may be the only indicator of damage from high cholesterol. This means that regular monitoring by a doctor is essential.

Most people should get their cholesterol checked with a blood test every 4–6 years. However, a doctor may recommend more frequent screening if any of the following risk factors may affect you:

What is normal LDL for a 70-year-old?

Adults should keep their total cholesterol levels below 200 mg/dL and their LDL levels below 100 mg/dL.

What range should your HDL and LDL be?

A healthy LDL range for adults is 100 mg/dL or lower. A healthy HDL range for adult males is 40 mg/dL and for adult females 50 mg/dL.

Cholesterol is a fatty, waxy substance that is created by your liver. It’s essential for bodily functions. However, high levels of cholesterol may increase your risk of developing certain health conditions.

People ages 19 or younger should aim to have a total cholesterol of 170 mg/dL or less, while adults should aim for 200 mg/dL or less.

Speak with a healthcare professional if you need help lowering your cholesterol levels. They can help develop a treatment plan that’s right for you.

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