Doctors typically consider 250 mg/dL high cholesterol. What level they consider healthy for you can vary by your age and other factors.

Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance in your blood that helps to make cells, some hormones, and vitamin D. The two main types of cholesterol are low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or the harmful cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or good cholesterol.

Your cholesterol level is the total amount of cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood. Triglycerides are a kind of fat that’s an energy source for your body.

If your total cholesterol level is 250 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), it’s considered high, which can negatively impact your health. It’s important to monitor your levels with a healthcare professional, especially since high cholesterol alone doesn’t often cause any symptoms.

Fortunately, it’s possible to lower your cholesterol level, which improves your health and decreases your chance of heart disease and stroke.

Read on to learn more about high cholesterol, the risks, and how to reduce it.

A cholesterol level of 250 mg/dL is considered high. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), any total cholesterol level over 200 mg/dL is considered high cholesterol, or hyperlipidemia.

High cholesterol can increase your risk of several health concerns and is associated with several underlying conditions. If you have high cholesterol, it’s vital to regularly test and monitor your cholesterol levels with a healthcare professional.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends tests every 5 years for young adults. For men 45 to 65 years old and women 55 to 65 years old, the NIH recommends tests every 1 to 2 years.

Language matters

We use “women” and “men” in this article to reflect the terms that have been historically used to gender people. But your gender identity may not align with how your body responds to this disease. Your doctor can better help you understand how your specific circumstances will translate into diagnosis, symptoms, and treatment.

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For adults 20 years and older, a healthy total cholesterol level is 125 mg/dL to 200 mg/dL.

It’s important to maintain a balance of LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.

  • Healthy LDL levels are less than 100mg/dL.
  • Healthy HDL (good) levels are 40mg/dL or higher for men and 50mg/dL or higher for women.
  • Healthy triglyceride levels are less than 150 mg/dL.

In addition to keeping your LDL levels low, you must ensure your HDL levels are high enough. HDL helps your body to remove excess cholesterol from your bloodstream, which helps to prevent plaque buildup and blockages. This reduces your chance of developing cardiovascular disease and stroke.

For children, a healthy total cholesterol level is less than 170 mg/dL, with an LDL level lower than 110 mg/dL.

Children with a total cholesterol level of more than 200 mg/dL with an LDL level higher than 130 mg/dL have high cholesterol. Children with high cholesterol should monitor their levels since they are more likely to have the condition as adults.

Due to the obesity epidemic, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises cholesterol level tests for all children between 9 and 11 years old.

The AAP advises cholesterol tests for children between 3 and 9 years old if they:

  • have parents or grandparents who have had heart attacks or received a diagnosis with blocked arteries or disease affecting the blood vessels, such as stroke, at age 55 or younger in men or 65 or earlier in women
  • have parents or grandparents with total blood cholesterol levels of 240 mg/dL or higher
  • have a family health history of risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, and obesity
  • have a family health history that’s unknown, including children who are adopted

The following conditions can cause high cholesterol in children:

Cholesterol is essential for your body to function properly, but an excess can lead to health complications.

High cholesterol levels can cause:

  • heart disease
  • heart attack
  • stroke
  • gallstones
  • abdominal pain
  • numbness in your legs and feet
  • reduced blood flow
  • cognitive decline
  • dementia

Excess cholesterol can lead to atherosclerosis. This condition occurs due to a buildup of plaque in your artery walls.

These plaque deposits consist of cholesterol, fatty substances, cellular waste products, calcium, and fibrin, a protein essential for blood clotting. If untreated, plaque can narrow your arteries, block blood vessels, and increase your risk of blood clots.

Atherosclerosis can lead to conditions, such as:

  • coronary heart disease
  • angina (chest pain)
  • carotid artery disease
  • peripheral artery disease
  • chronic kidney disease

It’s possible to lower your cholesterol levels, which is vital for improving your overall health and reducing cardiovascular disease. Take steps to improve your health by eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and maintaining a moderate weight.

Following a heart-healthy diet encourages healthy cholesterol levels and reduces your risk of heart disease. Below are some dietary recommendations to consider.

Limit or avoid:

  • saturated fat
  • trans fat
  • red and processed meat
  • full fat dairy products
  • fried foods
  • food and drinks high in sugar and sodium
  • refined carbohydrates, including pasta, pastries, and white rice
  • oils high in saturated fat, including palm, palm kernel, and coconut oil

Include plenty of:

  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • poultry
  • fish
  • low fat dairy
  • whole grains
  • beans
  • nuts
  • tofu
  • soy milk
  • nontropical vegetable oils, including olive and sunflower oil
  • foods rich in niacin (vitamin B3), including liver and chicken

You can also follow a specific diet to reduce cholesterol, including one of the following:

Supplements to improve your cholesterol levels include:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: High doses of omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce triglyceride levels, prevent cardiovascular disease, and prevent coronary plaque progression.
  • Psyllium: Psyllium is a dietary fiber that may lower LDL cholesterol levels and prevent cardiovascular diseases due to atherosclerosis.
  • Ginger: Ginger supplements may help to reduce LDL and triglyceride levels.

Lifestyle tips to reduce cholesterol include:

  • Stay physically active: Getting at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week helps to improve cholesterol and reduce high blood pressure.
  • Maintain a moderate weight: If you’re overweight or have obesity, you’re more likely to have high cholesterol. Losing weight helps to increase HDL levels, and lower LDL and triglyceride levels.
  • Quit smoking, if you smoke: If you smoke, quitting smoking has a protective effect on your arteries. Smoking can increase fatty deposits and speed up plaque buildup. It also makes you more likely to develop high blood pressure and diabetes, which increases your risk for heart disease.

If implementing healthy lifestyle changes is ineffective, your healthcare professional may recommend cholesterol medications, often called statins.

If your cholesterol is 250 mg/dL, it’s considered high and it’s vital to bring it within a healthy range. Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels has a positive effect on your cardiovascular and overall health.

If you have or are at risk of developing high cholesterol, you must monitor your levels by checking in regularly with a healthcare professional. Keep in mind that cholesterol levels usually increase with age, and high cholesterol often occurs without symptoms.

Take steps to lower your cholesterol levels and live a healthy lifestyle by eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and staying at a moderate weight.