High Cholesterol in Young Adults: Signs & Risks You Should Know

High Cholesterol in Young Adults: Signs & Risks You Should Know - Zizi

Medically Reviewed by Vincenta Faulkner, RD, CNSC, CCTD

Our health is determined by the effort we put into it. 

For many of us, it isn’t until we get older that we see the clear need for good healthcare and healthier lifestyle changes. When we’re still in young adulthood, it’s easy to take health for granted or ignore certain risk factors. We seemingly recover faster and can endure strain on our bodies.

However, good health is a constant effort and one that sticks with us even when we’re young adults. When we treat our body better at a young age through a healthy diet and healthy lifestyle, good health is easier to maintain in our older years. Poor health habits are much harder to recover from if we keep them into old age.

Even for younger people, having a keen awareness of your body’s well-being and healthy practices can help ensure your long-term health.

Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels is one of the most crucial steps in maintaining good health overall. Contrary to popular belief, even young people can suffer the effects of high cholesterol.

Here’s what you should know about high cholesterol and how it can affect our health, even as young adults.

What Is Cholesterol?

We often hear from our healthcare provider, physician, or even from commercials on TV how important it is to check our cholesterol levels.

Why is it so important to keep our cholesterol balanced?

Cholesterol is a waxy material the body uses to build cells, and our primary source of cholesterol is the liver. The liver creates cholesterol for constructing cells, vitamins, and hormones. 

Cholesterol is transported throughout our bloodstream, traveling through our blood vessels and arteries to the final destination.

Cholesterol, in this context, doesn’t sound so bad. It’s a foundation building material the body uses for all sorts of purposes. So why is it so important to keep an eye on our cholesterol levels?

What Are the Health Risks of High Cholesterol?

The problem arises when we ingest excess amounts of cholesterol. 

Our liver can produce virtually all the cholesterol our body actually needs. But we also get cholesterol through our diet — foods that are rich in saturated fats and other such nutrients can raise our cholesterol levels.

When we have too much cholesterol in our bloodstream, it can build up and cause blockages. This build up of material leads to plaque accumulation in your bloodstream, collecting on arterial walls across your circulatory system.

This hinders your heart's ability to pump blood throughout the body and can lead to various health risks.

Here are just a few conditions associated with high cholesterol levels:


Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is closely associated with high cholesterol. Atherosclerosis is a condition where the plaque build up associated with high blood cholesterol gets to the point where the arteries become choked and calcified.

As a result, the heart must work much harder to pump blood through these narrowed blood vessels, making your blood pressure skyrocket.

Coronary Heart Disease

One of the most closely associated health conditions with high cholesterol levels is a higher risk of heart disease. Similar to the causes of hypertension, plaque build up can choke up your arteries. This blockage can become so extreme that it can cause heart failure or heart attacks.


The blocked-up arteries and blood vessels linked to high cholesterol affect more than just the heart. Your body needs a steady supply of oxygen and other nutrients carried through the bloodstream. Equally important to your heart is your brain, which can suffer the results of blocked arteries when blood vessels connected to the brain become blocked.

Strokes happen because critical vessels to the brain become disrupted. They are closely associated with unhealthy, high cholesterol levels.

Peripheral Arterial Disease

Peripheral Arterial Disease is a condition that describes blocked blood vessels not related to the heart and brain. The body as a whole needs consistent, steady blood circulation, not just your heart and brain. PAD concerns key arteries like the ones in your lower body — your feet and legs — or the ones leading to your kidneys.

These conditions associated with high cholesterol levels don’t just affect older people. Young adults with high cholesterol can develop and suffer from these conditions as well. In fact, when high cholesterol levels go unchecked in young adults in their 20s, the resulting health conditions can become difficult to reverse by their 40s.

How Can I Monitor My Cholesterol Levels?

There are few, if any, symptoms that will definitively alert you about your high cholesterol levels. 

People have reported feeling shorter of breath, dizzy spells, and increased headaches with high cholesterol levels. But the only guaranteed way to monitor your cholesterol levels, especially for young people, is to take a blood test.

On a blood test, the signs of high cholesterol levels become absolutely clear. With a blood test, you get a high-resolution picture of the fat content in your blood, with numbers on your LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and total cholesterol levels.

LDL Cholesterol

Low-density lipoprotein is the primary cause of blocked arteries. This is the cholesterol that your physician will advise you to keep low. High LDL cholesterol levels in the blood may lead to an unhealthy accumulation in your blood vessels. This can lead to the plaque and fatty deposit buildup in your arteries associated with the previously mentioned health risks.

A high number of LDL cholesterol is a bad sign, indicating unhealthy cholesterol levels.

HDL Cholesterol

Not all cholesterol is bad. In fact, having higher levels of HDL cholesterol is a good thing.

High-density cholesterol is a sort of anti-cholesterol. When there’s too much cholesterol in your bloodstream, HDL cholesterol will retrieve the excess amount and return it to the liver. It can help prevent the kind of blockages in your arteries connected with high LDL cholesterol levels. 

HDL cholesterol serves as a natural monitor of your overall levels, so it's important to have a good number of HDL cholesterol in your blood. Low HDL numbers on your blood test can be a sign of trouble.


Triglycerides aren’t necessarily cholesterol, but they are a similar blood lipid that’s also closely associated with cardiovascular disease. Whereas cholesterol is a substance that’s used to construct cells, triglycerides are essentially stored calories in the form of fatty acids.

Like cholesterol, this stored fatty acid can block up our arteries when too much of it is in our bloodstream. For that reason, a blood test will monitor how many triglycerides you have in your bloodstream. High levels of triglycerides are a bad sign.

Total Cholesterol

As the name suggests, your total cholesterol level measures the total amount of cholesterol in your bloodstream. It’s calculated by adding your HDL and LDL cholesterol levels together, along with 20% of your triglycerides.

The lower your total cholesterol level, the better. Your results on all these metrics are the most effective sign of healthy or unhealthy cholesterol levels in your blood.

What Are Healthy Cholesterol Levels?

The health ranges for cholesterol levels are broken up into a few groups. There’s a metric for young people 19 and younger. Then there are metrics for people 20 and older, one for women and another for men.

For the 19 and younger group, healthy cholesterol levels break down like this

  • Total Cholesterol: Less than 170mg/dL
  • Non-HDL: Less than 120mg/dL
  • LDL Cholesterol: Less than 100mg/dL
  • HDL Cholesterol: More than 45mg/dL

For women 20 and over:

  • Total Cholesterol: 125 to 200mg/dL
  • Non-HDL: Less than 130mg/dL
  • LDL Cholesterol: Less than 100mg/dL
  • HDL Cholesterol: 50mg/dL or higher

For men 20 and over:

  • Total Cholesterol: 125 to 200mg/dL
  • Non-HDL: Less than 130mg/dL
  • LDL Cholesterol: Less than 100mg/dL
  • HDL Cholesterol: 40mg/dL or higher

More than any other else, a blood test with results higher than these metrics is the clearest sign of high cholesterol you can find. That’s why blood tests are so important. They can give you the most accurate picture of your cholesterol levels.

Young adults use the same range as 65-year-olds. It goes to show that even for young adults, cholesterol is a constant in your overall health and warrants serious concern. In fact, the American Heart Association recommends that all adults over 20 get their blood lipid levels checked every four to six years at least.

Of course, for those of us with increased risk of hypercholesterolemia — high cholesterol levels–blood lipid tests should be more frequent, as advised by your healthcare provider. 

Zizi offers at-home blood tests so it is easier than ever to monitor your cholesterol levels.

Zizi Can Help With High Cholesterol Levels

Our mission at Zizi is to prevent a heart attack before it happens. We’ve designed our Heart Health Reset program to address high cholesterol levels on all fronts. 

You’ll receive monthly at-home blood test kits so you can keep a sharp eye on your levels and watch them drop as you incorporate our cholesterol-lowering supplements and our plant-first food regimen into your diet.

Learn more about lowering your cholesterol in 30 days with Zizi’s Heart Health Reset program here, or your money back. 


What is Cholesterol? | American Heart Association

Cholesterol: High Cholesterol Diseases | Cleveland Clinic

High cholesterol in teens, early 20s, leads to heart problems by middle age | National Heart, Blood, Lung Institute

Cholesterol Levels: What You Need to Know | Medline Plus

How to Get Your Cholesterol Tested | American Heart Association