Cholesterol is a type of fat in the blood. High cholesterol is when there is too much of this fat.
Cholesterol is carried throughout the body by lipoproteins. There are 2 types:
High cholesterol increases your risk of stroke and heart disease.
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:
High cholesterol does not usually cause symptoms. However, it can increase your risk of atherosclerosis. This can block the flow of blood with a fatty buildup known as plaque. Cholesterol deposits may also form in tendons, under the eyes, or in the eye.
Other factors that may increase your risk include:
Some people with high cholesterol may also have cholesterol deposits in tendons, under the eyes, or in the eye.
Cholesterol screening is done as part of your regular exam. You will be asked about factors that may increase your risk of heart disease or stroke.
A blood test will be done to measure fat levels in your blood. Tests may include:
Talk to your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. You will need to decrease your LDL levels to lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. Options include:
You will need to reduce fat in your diet to decrease your LDL levels. Talk to your doctor about the best diet for you. In general:
Things you do throughout the day can help you lower your cholesterol:
Treat and control any other medical conditions you have, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
Statins are a medicine that may help lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Statins work best when you also eat healthy and exercise. They should not be used in place of healthy lifestyle changes.
American Heart Association
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Dietitians of Canada
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 March 26, 2018.
High blood cholesterol. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/high-blood-cholesterol. Accessed March 26, 2018.
Hypercholesterolemia. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114250/Hypercholesterolemia. Updated March 5, 2018. Accessed March 26, 2018.
12/14/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115449/Dietary-considerations-for-cardiovascular-disease-prevention: Ferdowsian HR, Barnard ND. Effects of plant-based diets on plasma lipids. Am J Cardiol. 2009;104(7):947-956.
8/27/2013 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115449/Dietary-considerations-for-cardiovascular-disease-prevention: 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 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD Last Updated: 4/4/2018