Total cholesterol level above 240 mg/dl is considered high. This condition is associated with an increased risk of developing complications due to the buildup of cholesterol plaques in the walls of arteries.
The most important complications are coronary heart disease which can lead to heart attack, strokes, and peripheral heart disease.
The causes of hyperlipidemia are controlled causes (the diet, weight, physical activity, smoking, and alcohol) and uncontrolled causes(heredity, age, sex, other diseases, and certain drugs).
To prevent cardiovascular events from happening, one must undergo some lifestyle changes and sometimes even start cholesterol-lowering drug therapy.
What does it mean to have a total cholesterol level above 240 mg/dl?
Having a total cholesterol level above 240 mg/dl means you have hyperlipidemia. This is a condition in which there are elevated cholesterol levels in the blood.
The excess cholesterol level is not used by the body, and over time, it builds onto the walls of the arteries causing plaques. These plaques impede the blood to flow normally and often leading to heart attacks and strokes.
Normally, hyperlipidemia causes no symptoms until it is complicated with coronary heart disease, stroke, or peripheral vascular disease.
Uncommonly it can manifest itself with yellowish nodules of fat in the skin beneath the eyes, elbow, knees, and tendons. Sometimes, hyperlipidemia affects the internal organs such as the liver and spleen causing them to grow bigger because of the fat build-up within the cells.
Total cholesterol level above 240 mg/dl – What are the Causes?
Total cholesterol level above 240 mg/dl is due to some factors. These factors are divided into controllable factors and uncontrollable factors.
1. Controllable factors:
· Your diet- What you eat can definitely affect your cholesterol levels. Foods rich in cholesterol (found mostly in dairy products), trans fats( in cookies, commercially baked goods, etc), and saturated fat(found in animal products) significantly increase your cholesterol level.
Try to avoid these foods as much as possible.
· Your body weight- Being overweight seriously increases your LDL or “bad” cholesterol level, and decreases your HDL or “good” cholesterol level.
· Physical activity- A sedentary life leads to weight gain, increased LDL levels, and decreased HDL levels.
· Smoking and alcohol- They damage the walls of the arteries, making them likely to accumulate fat deposits. Smoking lowers the levels of HLD cholesterol as well.
2. Uncontrollable factors:
· Heredity- High cholesterol level runs in families
· Age and sex- Starting from puberty, men have higher LDL cholesterol levels than women. After the age of 55 years old, women have higher LDL cholesterol levels than men.
· Diseases- Certain diseases such as diabetes, hypothyroidism, kidney disease, liver disease, alcoholism can cause hyperlipidemia
Drugs- Certain medications can cause hyperlipidemia as well.
What is the risk level for total cholesterol level above 240 mg/dl?
A total cholesterol level above 240 mg/dl is considered high, which means that there is a significant risk of developing coronary heart artery complications or other complications.
But, levels of total cholesterol above 280 mg/dl are considered very high, and in such situations, the risk of complications (coronary heart artery, strokes, peripheral vascular affections, etc) multiplies. Immediate measures need to be taken in order to lower the levels of cholesterol.
How to prevent an increased risk of developing cardiovascular events?
A total cholesterol level above 240 mg/dl is associated with an increased risk of developing cardiovascular events. To prevent these events from happening, there are some lifestyle changes one needs to undergo:
1. Dietary changes:
· Choose healthier fats-. Choose monounsaturated fats (commonly found in olive, peanut, canola oil, etc) instead of saturated fats, they are a healthier option. Try to decrease saturated fats intake to only 7% or less of your daily calories
· Limit your daily cholesterol intake- Aim for no more than 300 mg of cholesterol per day. If suffering from any heart disease, the intake of the daily cholesterol should be no more than 200 mg.
· Eliminate trans fats- Trans fats not only increase your “bad cholesterol (LDL)”, but they also decrease your “good cholesterol (HDL)”. They are found in every fast food production and in commercial products such as cookies, snacks, crackers,
· Consume whole grains- Whole grains have many compounds that promote heart health. Try to consume whole grain pasta, whole grain flour, whole grain bread, etc.
· Consume fiber-rich foods- both, soluble and insoluble types of fibers have health benefits, but soluble fibers commonly found in fruits and vegetables help to decrease LDL levels
· Consume Omega-3 fatty acid- Although it does not affect LDL levels, it is very beneficial for heart health because it increases good cholesterol (HDL) and lowers triglycerides
2. Exercising- Exercising improves your cholesterol level, it lowers bad cholesterol and increases good cholesterol levels. Exercise at least 30 min a day( unless medical problems like cardiovascular disease or any other serious health issue). You might consider: riding a bicycle, swimming laps, walking, playing a favorite sport, etc. If not feeling good in exercising 30 min continuously, try to exercise 10 min 3 times a day
3. Quit smoking- if a smoker, quitting smoking is very beneficial. It increases HDL levels, among other health benefits.
4. Losing weight- if overweight, losing only 7% of your body weight lowers your LDL level and increases your HDL cholesterol.
5. Consider some cholesterol-lowering supplements- such as Blond psyllium, Flaxseed, Artichoke extract, Barely, Green tea extract, Oat bran, Niacin, etc.
6. Drugs- Sometimes the aforementioned lifestyle changes are not enough. In this case, your doctor may prescribe you cholesterol-lowering drugs. Take them as prescribed, but continue with the lifestyle changes.