Cholesterol is a type of fat in the blood. High cholesterol is when there is too much of this fat. There are 2 types:
High LDL cholesterol can raise the risk of stroke and heart disease. High HDL cholesterol can lower the risk of stroke and heart disease.
Cholesterol is made in the liver and comes from food we eat. High cholesterol may be caused by one or more of the following:
Things that raise the risk of high cholesterol are:
High cholesterol levels usually do not cause symptoms.
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Cholesterol can be measured in the blood. The test is done as part of a regular screening. For healthy adults this may be every few years. Those with risk factors for heart disease may be screened more often. Children may be screened if they are obese or have a family history of high cholesterol.
Cholesterol screening is part of a blood test that will include:
A doctor can advise how often a person should be tested for high cholesterol. This is often based on the person's family and medical history.
The goal of treatment is to lower cholesterol levels. This will also help to lower the risk for heart disease and stroke. Treatment options include:
Statins are a medicine that may help lower cholesterol. They may reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Even when using medicine, diet and exercise are important.
Other steps that can help lower cholesterol levels include:
Certain foods and drinks can affect cholesterol levels in some people. To help lower cholesterol levels, the doctor may advise:
To help reduce the chance of having high cholesterol, talk to the doctor about:
American Heart Association
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Dietitians of Canada
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Balder J, Rimbert, A, et al. Genetics, lifestyle, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in young and apparently healthy women. Circulation. 2018 Feb 20;137(8):820-831.
High blood cholesterol. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/high-blood-cholesterol. Accessed January 2021.
Hypercholesterolemia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/hypercholesterolemia. Accessed January 18, 2021.
Prevention and treatment of high cholesterol. American Heart Association website. Available at: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/cholesterol/prevention-and-treatment-of-high-cholesterol-hyperlipidemia. Accessed January 2021.
Last reviewed February 2021 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 1/18/2021