Cholesterol is a type of lipid in the blood. High cholesterol is an abnormally high level of cholesterol in the blood.
There are different types of cholesterol in your blood including:
Causes of high cholesterol include:
The risk of high cholesterol increases with age. It is more common in men. It is also more common in women after menopause.
Factors that may increase your risk of high cholesterol include:
It is rare for high cholesterol to cause symptoms. However, high cholesterol can increase your risk of atherosclerosis, a dangerous hardening of the arteries. It can block the flow of blood. Some complications of atherosclerosis include:
Some people with high cholesterol may also have cholesterol deposits in tendons, under the eyes, or in the eye.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You will be asked about factors that may increase your risk of heart disease or stroke.
A blood test will also be done. Blood will be sent to a lab to measure lipid levels in your blood. Tests may include:
Other tests may be done to look for other conditions that can be associated with high cholesterol levels.
Talk to your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment is aimed at decreasing your LDL cholesterol levels and decreasing your risk for heart disease and stroke. Options include:
Talk to your doctor about the best meal plan for you. Consider the following changes:
To help reduce your chance of getting high cholesterol, follow the lifestyle and nutrition changes above.
American Heart Association
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Canadian Cardiovascular Society
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Cholesterol. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/Cholesterol_UCM_001089_SubHomePage.jsp. Accessed January 26, 2015.
Explore cholesterol. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hbc/. Updated September 19, 2012. Accessed January 26, 2015.
Hypercholesterolemia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated December 31, 2014. Accessed January 26, 2015.
12/14/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Ferdowsian HR, Barnard ND. Effects of plant-based diets on plasma lipids. Am J Cardiol. 2009;104(7):947-956.
8/27/2013 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Hartley L, Flowers N, Holmes J, et al. Green and black tea for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013;6:CD009934.
Last reviewed March 2016 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.