Doctors typically consider a cholesterol level of 250 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) high. Optimal cholesterol levels that people should aim for can vary by age and other factors.

Cholesterol is vital to health, and the body uses it to perform many essential functions, such as hormone production and digestion. However, high cholesterol can increase the risk of several serious health conditions, such as heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease.

A person may be able to lower their cholesterol level with lifestyle changes and treatment.

This article looks at what it means for someone to have a cholesterol reading of 250 mg/dL. It also looks at potential symptoms of 250 mg/dL cholesterol, factors contributing to this level, and what a person can do if their cholesterol is at this level.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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A cholesterol level of 250 mg/dL is above what doctors consider healthy or optimal levels.

A lipoprotein panel — which some people call a lipid panel or profile — measures cholesterol levels in the blood. The test provides information about the following:

  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol: Having excessive LDL cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol, can cause plaque buildup in the arteries. This can lead to complications such as stroke or heart attack.
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol: HDL cholesterol, or “good” cholesterol, helps remove cholesterol from the arteries.
  • Total cholesterol: Total cholesterol refers to HDL and LDL cholesterol levels in the blood.
  • Triglycerides: Triglycerides are a type of fat present in the blood. High levels of fat, in combination with high cholesterol levels, can increase a person’s risk of serious health conditions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), optimal levels of cholesterol are as follows:

  • LDL cholesterol: About 100 mg/dL
  • HDL cholesterol: At least 50 mg/dL in females and 40 mg/dL in males
  • Total cholesterol: About 150 mg/dL
  • Triglycerides: Lower than 150 mg/dL

If a person has 250 mg/dL cholesterol, the measurement refers to their total cholesterol. A healthy total cholesterol level is around 150 mg/dL, and doctors consider anything above 200 mg/dL high. Another name for this condition is hyperlipidemia.

Generally, a person’s age and other factors, such as having another health condition, can influence the cholesterol levels a person should aim for.

Learn more about cholesterol levels and the adequate range for different ages.

High cholesterol levels do not typically cause symptoms. However, it can lead to various health complications.

Cholesterol can build up and combine with other materials in the blood to form plaque. A buildup of plaque in the arteries, or atherosclerosis, can narrow the blood vessels and reduce blood flow to vital organs.

A buildup of plaque in the arteries can lead to the following:

Learn more about high cholesterol symptoms.

Various factors can contribute to high cholesterol or having a total cholesterol level of 250 mg/dL. These include:

  • Genetics: A person with a family history of high cholesterol may be more likely to have a cholesterol level of 250 mg/dL.
  • Age: A person’s cholesterol levels can increase as they age.
  • Sex: Females typically have lower cholesterol levels than males of the same age before menopause, usually in people aged 45–55. After menopause, cholesterol levels can increase.
  • Smoking: Smoking can reduce levels of HDL cholesterol, which can contribute to higher total cholesterol.
  • Diet: Eating a diet high in saturated fat can increase cholesterol levels.
  • Weight: A person who has overweight may be at higher risk of high cholesterol and heart disease.
  • Sedentary lifestyle: Too little physical activity can lead to weight gain and increased risk of higher cholesterol.
  • Health conditions: For example, having obesity or type 2 diabetes can increase a person’s risk of high cholesterol.

Learn more about what causes high cholesterol.

Individuals with a total cholesterol level of 250 mg/dL can take steps to help lower it.

These include:

  • Stopping smoking: Smoking cessation can help increase HDL levels and decrease LDL levels, reducing total cholesterol.
  • Eating a heart-healthy diet: The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a person limit saturated fat to less than 6% of their daily calories. For a heart-healthy diet, a person should reduce their intake of foods high in salt and sugar. Instead, they should increase their intake of the following:
    • fruits
    • vegetables
    • fish
    • nuts
    • poultry
    • whole grains
  • Getting enough physical activity: People should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity weekly exercise to lower cholesterol.
  • Maintaining a moderate weight: A person who has overweight or obesity may be at higher risk of high cholesterol. Maintaining a moderate weight could help lower total cholesterol.

Learn more about how to lower cholesterol.

Medications can help lower blood cholesterol. A doctor may prescribe one of the following to someone with 250 mg/dL cholesterol:

  • Statins: Doctors most often prescribe statins to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack.
  • Bile acid sequestrants: A doctor may prescribe these if a person cannot tolerate statins or in combination with a statin. This medication helps the body expel bile acids, which it produces when it breaks down cholesterol.
  • Medication for familial hypercholesterolemia: Familial hypercholesterolemia is a condition that someone can inherit, which causes high cholesterol. Medications to treat it include:
    • ezetimibe (Zetia)
    • mipomersen (Kynamro)
    • lomitapide (Juxtapid)
  • PCSK9 inhibitors: Doctors may prescribe PCSK9 inhibitors in combination with a statin or in cases where a person cannot tolerate statins.

Learn more about cholesterol medications.

Doctors consider 250 mg/dL of total cholesterol to be high. High cholesterol can lead to serious health complications, including stroke and heart attack.

Factors such as a diet high in saturated fat, smoking, and getting little physical activity can increase the risk of high cholesterol. A person could help lower their cholesterol by addressing the risk factors within their control.

Taking steps such as eating a heart-healthy diet, getting enough physical activity, and stopping smoking can help lower cholesterol. A doctor may also prescribe any necessary medications to help someone manage their high cholesterol.