High cholesterol : Causes-Symptoms-Diagnosis-Treatment


 What is High cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is found in your blood. Your body needs cholesterol to build healthy cells, but high levels of cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease.

Having high cholesterol can lead to the accumulation of fatty deposits in your blood vessels. These deposits can grow and eventually create a blockage that causes a heart attack or stroke.

What is High cholesterol?
High cholesterol

High cholesterol can be inherited, but it often results from unhealthy lifestyle choices. A healthy diet, regular exercise, and medication can help reduce high cholesterol if it is caused by a lifestyle choice.

  1. Blood

Medical terms

High cholesterol is a condition that can lead to buildup of plaque in your arteries. This can lead to heart disease, heart attack, or stroke. Many people do not know they have high cholesterol because it often has no symptoms. A simple blood test can tell if you have high cholesterol.

High cholesterol can be many things to different people. Depending on your age, lifestyle, and health conditions, high cholesterol can be a minor annoyance or a serious threat. To some, “high cholesterol” is simply a number on a blood test that they need to keep an eye on. To others, it’s a life-threatening condition that needs to be treated with medication.

Symptoms High cholesterol

High cholesterol is not always associated with any symptoms. A blood test can determine if you have it, but most people do not experience any symptoms.

When to see a doctor

Your first cholesterol screening should take place between the ages of 9 and 11, and then screenings should be repeated every five years.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) recommends that cholesterol screenings occur every one to two years for men ages 45 to 65 and for women ages 55 to 65. People over 65 should receive cholesterol tests annually.

If your test results aren't as good as you'd like, your doctor might recommend more frequent measurements. Your doctor might also suggest more frequent tests if you have a family history of high cholesterol or heart disease, or if you have other risk factors such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

Causes High cholesterol

Cholesterol is carried through your blood in combination with proteins. This mixture of proteins and cholesterol is called lipoprotein. There are different types of lipoproteins based on what they carry. They are:

  • LDL is a type of unhealthy cholesterol.LDL is the bad cholesterol that transports cholesterol particles throughout your body. LDL cholesterol builds up in the walls of your arteries, making them hard and narrow.

  • HDL is a type of cholesterol that is considered healthy.HDL (good cholesterol) collects excess cholesterol and takes it back to the liver.

A lipid profile also typically measures fats in the blood. A high triglyceride level can increase your risk of heart disease.

The factors you can control, such as being inactive, being obese, and eating an unhealthy diet, can contribute to harmful cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Factors beyond your control, such as your genetic makeup, might also play a role. For example, if your body is less able to remove LDL cholesterol Your blood is processed in the liver.

Medical conditions that can lead to unhealthy cholesterol levels include:

  • Chronic kidney disease

  • Diabetes


  • Hypothyroidism

  • Lupus

Some medications can also increase cholesterol levels. This may be the case if you are taking medications for other health problems, such as high blood pressure or heart disease.

  • Acne

  • Cancer

  • High blood pressure


  • Irregular heart rhythms

  • Organ transplants

Risk factors High cholesterol

High cholesterol is a common health risk which can be caused by the foods that you eat. Consuming foods which are high in saturated fat, trans fat, and dietary cholesterol can all contribute to increased levels of cholesterol in the body. It is important to recognize the foods which are likely to increase your cholesterol and make sure that you are incorporating healthy alternatives into your diet. Eating a balanced diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains is an essential part of keeping your cholesterol levels in check.

High cholesterol is a common health issue, and a variety of dietary habits can increase the risk for elevated cholesterol levels. Eating too much saturated fat, trans fat, and dietary cholesterol can lead to a rise in cholesterol levels. Red meats, full-fat dairy products, and processed foods are the main culprits for increasing one’s cholesterol, as these foods contain high levels of saturated fat. Additionally, consuming too much sugar and processed carbohydrates can also contribute to high cholesterol levels.

Some factors that may increase your risk of unhealthy cholesterol levels include:

  • Poor diet.Consuming too much saturated fat or trans fats can lead to unhealthy cholesterol levels. Saturated fats are found in fatty cuts of meat and full-fat dairy products. Trans fats are often found in packaged snacks or desserts.

  • Obesity.Having a BMI of 30 or greater puts you at risk for high cholesterol.

  • Lack of exercise.Physical activity helps increase your HDL (good cholesterol) levels.

  • Smoking.Smoking may lower your level of good cholesterol.

  • Alcohol.Drinking too much alcohol can increase your total cholesterol level. This is a type of fat in your blood.

  • Age.Even young children can have unhealthy cholesterol, but it is more common in older people. As you age your liver becomes less able to remove bad cholesterol (LDL).

Complications High cholesterol

High cholesterol can lead to the formation of dangerous deposits on the walls of your arteries (atherosclerosis). These deposits can cause decreased blood flow through your arteries, which can lead to complications such as:

  • Chest pain.If the arteries that supply your heart with blood (coronary arteries) are blocked, you might have chest pain (angina) and other symptoms of coronary artery disease.

  • Heart attack.If plaques tear or rupture, blood can flow out of the site and create a clot. This can block the flow of blood to parts of your heart, and if this happens to part of your heart, you could have a heart attack.

  • Stroke.A stroke happens when a blood clot blocks blood flow to part of your brain. This is similar to a heart attack, in that it can cause severe damage to your body.

Prevention High cholesterol

A healthy lifestyle that can lower your cholesterol can help prevent you from having high cholesterol in the first place. To help prevent high cholesterol, you can:

  • Follow a low-salt diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

  • Use good fats in moderation, and avoid eating too much animal fat.

  • To lose weight and maintain a healthy weight, follow these steps:

  • Quit smoking

  • Aim to exercise for at least 30 minutes each day, no matter what day it is.

  • Drinking alcohol can be harmful, so drink in moderation if you do drink at all.

  • Manage stress

What foods cause high cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a type of fat that is found in the bloodstream. Eating certain foods can cause high cholesterol levels, which in turn can lead to heart disease and stroke. Foods that are high in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol can raise blood cholesterol. This includes foods like red meats, processed meats, full-fat dairy products, fried foods, and some packaged snacks.

High cholesterol is a common health issue that affects many people. Eating certain types of foods can contribute to high cholesterol levels. Foods with high saturated fat content should be avoided, as these can increase cholesterol levels. Additionally, foods high in trans fats should be limited as these fats can also lead to increased cholesterol levels.

Diagnosis High cholesterol

A cholesterol test will report:

  • Total cholesterol

  • LDL cholesterol

  • HDL cholesterol

  • Fatty acids are a type of fat in the blood.

You will need to fast for nine to twelve hours before a cholesterol test. Some cholesterol tests do not require fasting, so follow your doctor's instructions.

  1. Cephalin-cholesterol flocculation

Interpreting the numbers

Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood in the United States, and in millimoles per liter (mmol/L) in Canada and many European countries. To understand your test results, use these general guidelines.

Cholesterol is a type of fat found in the blood. It can be measured to determine if a person has too much cholesterol in their blood.

Cholesterol levels* in Canada and most of Europe are higher than in the United States.


These conversions are based on U.S. guidelines, but the instructions may be different in Canada or Europe.

Below 200 mg/dL

Below 5.2 mmol/L


200-239 mg/dL

5.2-6.2 mmol/L

Borderline high

240 mg/dL and above

Above 6.2 mmol/L



Cholesterol (LDL) is different in different countries. In the United States, LDL cholesterol is called "cholesterol." Elsewhere in the world, it might be called something else.

LDL cholesterol* (Canada and most of Europe) is the type of cholesterol that is linked to heart disease.


These conversions are based on U.S. guidelines, but the Canadian and European guidelines differ slightly.

Below 70 mg/dL

Below 1.8 mmol/L

This plant is best for people who have coronary artery disease, including a history of heart attacks or angina. It can be helpful for those who have had coronary bypass surgery.

Below 100 mg/dL

Below 2.6 mmol/L

This diet is best for people at risk for coronary artery disease or who have diabetes. It is near optimal for people with uncomplicated coronary artery disease.

100-129 mg/dL

2.6-3.3 mmol/L

If there is no coronary artery disease, the condition is near optimal. If there is coronary artery disease, the condition is high.

130-159 mg/dL

3.4-4.1 mmol/L

If you have coronary artery disease, your heart rate is high. If there is no coronary artery disease, your heart rate is borderline high.

160-189 mg/dL

4.1-4.9 mmol/L

If you have no coronary artery disease, your blood pressure is high. If you have coronary artery disease, your blood pressure is very high.

190 mg/dL and above

Above 4.9 mmol/L

Your likelihood of having this condition is very high.


HDL cholesterol is a type of cholesterol (U.S. and some other countries).

HDL cholesterol is found in Canada and most of Europe.


These conversions are based on U.S. guidelines, but they may be different in Canada and Europe.

Below 40 mg/dL (men)

Below 1.0 mmol/L (men)


Below 50 mg/dL (women)

Below 1.3 mmol/L (women)


40-59 mg/dL (men)

1.0-1.5 mmol/L (men)


50-59 mg/dL (women)

1.3-1.5 mmol/L (women)


60 mg/dL and above

Above 1.5 mmol/L



Triglycerides (in the U.S., some other countries, and other animal-based fats)

Triglycerides are found in Canada and most of Europe.


The conversion rates for Canadian and European guidelines differ slightly from U.S. guidelines. These conversions are based on U.S. guidelines.

Below 150 mg/dL

Below 1.7 mmol/L


150-199 mg/dL

1.7-2.2 mmol/L

Borderline high

200-499 mg/dL

2.3-5.6 mmol/L


500 mg/dL and above

Above 5.6 mmol/L

Very high

Children and cholesterol testing

The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute recommends that children have cholesterol screening tests between the ages of 9 and 11 and then again every five years after that.

If your child has a family history of heart disease or if they are overweight or diabetic, your doctor might recommend cholesterol testing more often.

Treatment High cholesterol

If you have made good lifestyle changes and your cholesterol levels are still high, your doctor may recommend medication to help lower your cholesterol.

The choice of medication or combination of medications depends on various factors, including your personal risk factors, your age, your health, and any possible drug side effects. Common choices include:

  • Statins. Statins block a substance your liver needs to produce cholesterol. This results in your liver removing cholesterol from your blood. There are many statin options, including atorvastatin (Lipitor), fluvastatin (Lescol), lovastatin (Altoprev), pitavastatin (Livalo), pravastatin (Pravachol), rosuvastatin (Crestor), and simvastatin. Zocor is a medication.

  • Cholesterol absorption inhibitors.Your small intestine can absorb cholesterol from your diet and release it into your bloodstream. A medication called ezetimibe (Zetia) helps reduce blood cholesterol by limiting the absorption of dietary cholesterol. Ezetimibe can be used in combination with a statin drug.

  • Bempedoic acid.This newer drug works in a way similar to statins, but is less likely to produce muscle pain. Adding bempedoic acid (Nexletol) to the maximum dosage of a statin can help lower LDL significantly. There is also a combination pill available that contains both bempedoic acid and ezetimibe (Nexlizet).

  • Bile-acid-binding resins. Cholesterol is used by your liver to make bile acids. Medications such as cholestyramine (Prevalite), colesevelam (Welchol), and colestipol (Colestid) lower cholesterol by binding to bile acids, which then prompts the liver to use more cholesterol than usual. Cholesterol is reduced by eating olive oil.

  • PCSK9 inhibitors. These drugs can help your liver process more LDL cholesterol, which reduces the amount of cholesterol circulating in your blood. Alirocumab (Praluent) and evolocumab (Repatha) might be used for people who have a genetic condition that causes very high levels of LDL or for people who have a history of heart disease. People who have coronary disease and are intolerant to statins or other cholesterol medications must receive injections every few weeks. These injections are expensive.

Medications for high triglycerides

If you have high triglycerides, your doctor might prescribe: High triglycerides are a type of cholesterol. When they are too high, the arteries that carry blood to the heart can become clogged. This can lead to a heart attack or stroke. If you have high triglycerides, your doctor might prescribe medication to lower them.

  • Fibrates. The medications fenofibrate and gemfibrozil reduce the liver's production of very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol and triglycerides from your blood. This can help to speed the removal of these substances from your body. Taking fibrates with a statin can be helpful. Taking statins increases the risk of side effects.

  • Niacin.Niacin prevents your liver from producing LDL and VLDL cholesterol. However, niacin does not provide additional benefits over statins. Niacin has also been linked to liver damage and strokes, so most doctors now recommend it only for people who cannot take statins.

  • Omega-3 fatty acid supplements.Supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids can help lower your triglycerides. They are available as over-the-counter supplements or through a doctor's prescription. Even if you choose to take over-the-counter supplements, be sure to speak to your doctor first. Supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids might affect other medications you're taking.

Tolerance varies

Some people tolerate medications better than others. Statins, for example, are known to cause muscle pains and damage to muscles that can be reversed with time; memory loss, confusion, and elevated blood sugar are also common side effects. If you decide to take a cholesterol medication, your doctor might recommend blood tests to monitor your liver function. The medication's effect on your liver.

Children and cholesterol treatment

There is no single best way to treat children who have high cholesterol or are obese. However, diet and exercise can be helpful in the beginning. For children aged 10 and older, if their cholesterol levels are very high, they might be prescribed drugs to help lower their cholesterol levels.

More Information

  • There are different types of cholesterol medications that you may consider.

  • Niacin will increase your HDL 'good' cholesterol.

  • Statin side effects

  • Statins

  • High cholesterol in children

  • Are there any risks associated with taking statins?

  • Niacin overdose: What are the symptoms?

  • Statins: Do they cause ALS?

Lifestyle and home remedies

Making lifestyle changes is key to improving your cholesterol levels.

  • Lose extra pounds.Losing weight can lower your cholesterol level.

  • Eat a heart-healthy diet.Eat plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Limit saturated fats and trans fats. Monounsaturated fat is found in olive and canola oils, and avocado nuts are a healthier option. Oily fish such as salmon are also good sources of healthy fat.

  • Exercise regularly.You should work up to 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise five times a week with your doctor's approval.

  • Don't smoke. If you smoke, find a way to quit.

More Information

  • Foods that contain cholesterol can improve your cholesterol numbers.

  • HDL cholesterol: How to raise your 'good' cholesterol levels

  • Lifestyle changes to improve cholesterol

  • Eggs and cholesterol

  • Can pomegranate juice lower cholesterol?

Preparing for your appointment

If you're an adult and haven't had regular cholesterol level checks, make an appointment with your doctor. Here are some things to help you prepare for your appointment.

What you can do

Make sure to ask if there are any things you need to do in advance of your cholesterol test. For example, you might need to avoid eating or drinking anything for nine to twelve hours before the blood sample is taken.

Make a list of:

  • Your symptoms, if any

  • Key personal information,having a family history of high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, strokes, or high blood pressure or diabetes is a risk factor for these health conditions.

  • All medications,What vitamins or supplements do you take in addition to the doses prescribed by your doctor?

  • Questions to ask your doctor

Some questions you may want to ask your doctor about high cholesterol include:

  • What tests do I need?

  • What's the best treatment?

  • How often do I need a cholesterol test?

  • Can I have brochures or other printed material? Do you have any websites that I can visit?

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask.

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor may ask you a number of questions, such as:

  • What kind of food do you eat?

  • How much exercise do you get?

  • How much alcohol do you drink each day?

  • Are you smoking cigarettes? Did you or have you been around other smokers?

  • When was the last time you had your cholesterol checked? What were the results?

General summary

High cholesterol is a major contributing factor to heart disease and stroke. Eating certain foods can increase cholesterol levels, which can be dangerous for your long-term health. Fatty meat, full-fat dairy products, and fried foods are all known to raise cholesterol levels. Trans fats, found in processed foods, are also considered a major risk factor for high cholesterol.

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