Learn About High Cholesterol

What is the definition of High Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fat (also called a lipid) that your body needs to work properly. Too much bad cholesterol can increase your chance of getting heart disease, stroke, and other problems.

The medical term for high blood cholesterol is lipid disorder, hyperlipidemia, or hypercholesterolemia.

Save information for later
Sign Up
What are the alternative names for High Cholesterol?

Cholesterol - high; Lipid disorders; Hyperlipoproteinemia; Hyperlipidemia; Dyslipidemia; Hypercholesterolemia

What are the different types of High Cholesterol?

Common conditions include: Familial Hypercholesterolemia

What are the causes of High Cholesterol?

There are many types of cholesterol. The ones talked about most are:

  • Total cholesterol -- all the cholesterols combined
  • High density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol -- often called "good" cholesterol
  • Low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol -- often called "bad" cholesterol

For many people, abnormal cholesterol levels are partly due to an unhealthy lifestyle. This often includes eating a diet that is high in fat. Other lifestyle factors are:

  • Being overweight
  • Lack of exercise
Cholesterol producers

Some health conditions can also lead to abnormal cholesterol, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Pregnancy and other conditions that increase levels of female hormones
  • Underactive thyroid gland

Medicines such as certain birth control pills, diuretics (water pills), beta-blockers, and some medicines used to treat depression may also raise cholesterol levels. Several disorders that are passed down through families lead to abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels. They include:

  • Familial combined hyperlipidemia
  • Familial dysbetalipoproteinemia
  • Familial hypercholesterolemia
  • Familial hypertriglyceridemia

Smoking does not cause higher cholesterol levels, but it can reduce your HDL (good) cholesterol.

What are the current treatments for High Cholesterol?

Steps you can take to improve your cholesterol levels and to help prevent heart disease and a heart attack include:

  • Quit smoking. This is the single biggest change you can make to reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • Eat foods that are naturally low in fat. These include whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Use low-fat toppings, sauces, and dressings.
  • Avoid foods that are high in saturated fat.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight.

Your provider may want you to take medicine for your cholesterol if lifestyle changes do not work. This will depend on:

  • Your age
  • Whether or not you have heart disease, diabetes, or other blood flow problems
  • Whether you smoke or are overweight
  • Whether you have high blood pressure or diabetes

You are more likely to need medicine to lower your cholesterol:

  • If you have heart disease or diabetes
  • If you are at risk for heart disease (even if you do not yet have any heart problems)
  • If your LDL cholesterol is 190 mg/dL or higher

Almost everyone else may get health benefits from LDL cholesterol that is lower than 160 to 190 mg/dL.

There are several types of drugs to help lower blood cholesterol levels. The drugs work in different ways. Statins are one kind of drug that lowers cholesterol and has been proven to reduce the chance of heart disease. Other drugs are available if your risk is high and statins do not lower your cholesterol levels enough. These include ezetimibe and PCSK9 inhibitors.

Who are the top High Cholesterol Local Doctors?
Elite
Elite
 
 
 
 
Learn about our expert tiers
Learn more
Elite
What is the outlook (prognosis) for High Cholesterol?

High cholesterol levels can lead to hardening of the arteries, also called atherosclerosis. This occurs when fat, cholesterol, and other substances build up in the walls of arteries and form hard structures called plaques.

Developmental process of atherosclerosis

Over time, these plaques can block the arteries and cause heart disease, stroke, and other symptoms or problems throughout the body.

Disorders that are passed down through families often lead to higher cholesterol levels that are harder to control.

Understanding cholesterol results
Coronary artery disease
Cholesterol and triglyceride test
What are the latest High Cholesterol Clinical Trials?
A Multicentric, Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Phase III Study to Evaluate the Efficacy and Safety of SHR-1209 in Patients With Hypercholesterolemia

Summary: This study is ongoing to evaluate the efficacy and safety of SHR-1209 in patients with hypercholesterolemia.

Match to trials
Find the right clinical trials for you in under a minute
Get started
Role of a Wheat-based Diet in NASH (NASH-ATI)

Summary: Effects of Wheat-based diet vs. ATI-free diet on NASH

What are the Latest Advances for High Cholesterol?
Long-Term Outcomes after Adolescent Bariatric Surgery.
Hypertriglyceridaemia in pregnancy: an unexpected diagnosis and its management.
Tired of the same old research?
Check Latest Advances
Single ultrasound-guided local high-dose thrombin injection in the treatment of giant brachial artery pseudoaneurysm: A case report.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: February 23, 2022
Published By: Thomas S. Metkus, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Arnett DK, Blumenthal RS, Albert MA, et al. 2019 ACC/AHA Guideline on the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease: executive summary: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines. Circulation. 2019;140(11):e563-e595. PMID: 30879339. pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30879339/.

Genest J, Mora S, Libby P. Lipoprotein disorders and cardiovascular disease. In: Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Tomaselli GF, Bhatt DL, Solomon SD, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 27.

Grundy SM, Stone NJ, Bailey AL, et al. 2018 AHA/ACC/AACVPR/AAPA/ABC/ACPM/ADA/AGS/APhA/ASPC/NLA/PCNA guideline on the management of blood cholesterol: executive summary; a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2019;73(24):3168-3209. PMID: 30423391 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30423391/.

Robinson JG. Disorders of lipid metabolism. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 195.

US Preventive Services Task Force final recommendation statement. Statin use for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease in adults: preventive medication. www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/draft-update-summary/statin-use-primary-prevention-cardiovascular-disease-adults. Updated Feb 15, 2022. Accessed April 22, 2022.

US Preventive Services Task Force; Bibbins-Domingo K, Grossman DC, Curry SJ, et al. Screening for lipid disorders in children and adolescents: US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. JAMA. 2016;316(6):625-633. PMID: 27532917 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27532917/.