Cholesterol Guidelines for Seniors
Individuals aged 65 and older are more likely than their younger counterparts to experience a heart attack or to develop heart disease. One form of heart disease, atherosclerosis, can be caused by having too much cholesterol in the blood, which causes a buildup of plaque in the arteries. That’s why it’s important to maintain healthy levels of cholesterol in your body as you age. Because you can have high cholesterol without any symptoms, it’s important to have your levels checked by your doctor on an annual basis; if your cholesterol levels are too high, they might recommend lifestyle changes or even medication to help reduce the levels of cholesterol in your blood.
Understanding Cholesterol Numbers
While having high cholesterol can be a problem, it’s important to understand that your body needs some cholesterol to help produce hormones, vitamin D and other substances that can help you with digestion. However, because your body produces all the cholesterol it needs to thrive, the added cholesterol found in the food you eat (full-fat dairy products, eggs, animal fats and other foods that are high in saturated fats) can oversaturate your body and lead to unhealthy levels of cholesterol in the body.
So, what are healthy vs. unhealthy levels of cholesterol? Generally speaking, it’s recommended that an individual’s total cholesterol levels (including HDL, LDL and triglycerides) remain lower than 200 mg/dL. Cholesterol levels of 200-239 mg/dL are considered borderline high, while levels of 240 mg/dL and above are considered high risk.
When you look at the breakdown of your total cholesterol, you might notice that there are also recommendations for the optimal amounts of lipoproteins and fats found in your blood, which include high-density lipoproteins (HDLs, the “good” cholesterol), low-density lipoproteins (LDLs, the “bad” cholesterol) and triglycerides (fats). Optimal levels for each of these individually include:
- HDL: Levels of 60 mg/dL or more are considered protective against heart disease, while levels below 40 mg/dL are considered a major risk factor.
- LDL: Levels less than 100 mg/dL are considered optimal; anything above 130 mg/dL veers into the borderline-to-high category.
- Triglycerides: Levels of 149 mg/dL or lower are considered optimal.
How Can I Lower My Cholesterol Naturally?
If you’re concerned about your cholesterol levels, but your doctor hasn’t recommended taking medication to decrease your overall cholesterol, you might want to look into managing your cholesterol naturally. So, how do you lower your cholesterol without medication? Easy! You just need to make heart-healthy choices when it comes to diet and exercise. Here are a few tips:
- While you don’t have to eliminate fat from your diet entirely, choose healthier fats, like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, as compared to saturated or trans fats.
- Limit your intake of foods with higher amounts of cholesterol; these include foods like eggs, cheese, animal fats (meat, full-fat dairy), etc.
- Take in more omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce triglycerides, by eating more fish or taking omega-3 supplements.
- Limit your alcohol intake, as alcohol can raise your level of triglycerides. What is the best drink to lower cholesterol? Always hydrate with water, but you can also look for drinks like green tea, which has been said to help lower LDL, or soy milk, which is lower in saturated fat than dairy milk. You can also try heart-healthy smoothies!
- Limit your sodium intake; while eating a sodium-rich diet will not cause high cholesterol itself, it can raise your blood pressure and – like high cholesterol – can cause heart attacks and strokes.
Wondering how long does it take to lower cholesterol without medication? And what reduces cholesterol quickly? You might be disappointed, as research shows it can take at least 3-6 months for your LDL levels to decrease through diet and exercise alone.
Prioritize Your Health at The Atriums
If you’re worried about your cholesterol levels, it’s important that you speak to your doctor and follow any guidelines they set for you to help decrease your cholesterol. At The Atriums Senior Living Community, we offer personalized care options that include partnering with you, your physician and your family to ensure your needs are met with respectful dignity. With our individualized care plans, 24/7 on-site licensed and certified nursing staff and healthy, nutritious meals provided daily, we’ll get you back to your optimal levels of health in no time.