Cholesterol and Menopause: Low Total Cholesterol and Low HDL in Women

Question: What happens to cholesterol level when a woman reaches menopause? Is there any risk involved if one has low Total cholesterol but low HDL level? So what level of HDL and LDL should a woman have?

Menopause and Cholesterol Levels

HDL cholesterol production drops as a woman reaches menopause because the estrogen level has already declined in a natural manner. So the natural protection against plaque build-up has come to an end. Studies have found that a woman’s risk of heart disease rises greatly if the HDL levels dip even a little.

The risk of heart disease doubled in women when there was even a little drop say 10mg/dL in HDL. To compensate for the drop women can take estrogen-replacement hormones through a course known as Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).

Low Total Cholesterol and Low HDL

Even if a woman has low Total cholesterol she can be at risk of heart disease when she has low HDL levels. So you should know your HDL level to determine if 250mg/dL cholesterol reading is really safe. HDL is a more precise and accurate indicator of heart disease than total cholesterol alone.

But one cannot ignore LDL level either. LDL is not an important predictor of heart disease in women as they are in men. But LDL is a bad lipid that lays down plaque on the arteries and these effects cannot be neutralized completely by even HDL.

In general women should have HDL higher than 55mg/dL and LDL lower than 130mg/dL. It is very important to know the ratio of Total cholesterol to HDL in the blood. The ratio of total cholesterol to HDL levels should not exceed 6:1. The risk of heart disease increases if the ratio is higher. The LDL to HDL ratio should not exceed 4:1.