Also known as: Lipid disorders, Hyperlipoproteinemia, Hyperlipidemia, Dyslipidemia or Hypercholesterolemia
- Total cholesterol -- all the cholesterols combined
- High density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol -- often called "good" cholesterol
- Low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol -- often called "bad" cholesterol
- Being overweight
- Lack of exercise
- Kidney disease
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Pregnancy and other conditions that increase levels of female hormones
- Underactive thyroid gland
- Familial combined hyperlipidemia
- Familial dysbetalipoproteinemia
- Familial hypercholesterolemia
- Familial hypertriglyceridemia
- Recommended starting ages are between 20 to 35 for men and 20 to 45 for women.
- Adults with normal cholesterol levels do not need to have the test repeated for 5 years.
- Repeat testing sooner if changes occur in lifestyle (including weight gain and diet).
- Adults with a history of elevated cholesterol, diabetes, kidney problems, heart disease, and other conditions require more frequent testing.
- LDL: 70 to 130 mg/dL (lower numbers are better)
- HDL: More than 50 mg/dL (high numbers are better)
- Total cholesterol: Less than 200 mg/dL (lower numbers are better)
- Triglycerides: 10 to 150 mg/dL (lower numbers are better)
- Blood sugar (glucose) test to look for diabetes
- Kidney function tests
- Thyroid function tests to look for an underactive thyroid gland
- 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 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
- 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)
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.
There are many types of cholesterol. The ones talked about most are:
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:
Some health conditions can also lead to abnormal cholesterol, including:
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:
Smoking does not cause higher cholesterol levels, but it can reduce your HDL (good) cholesterol.
Exams and Tests
A cholesterol test is done to diagnose a lipid disorder. Different experts recommend different starting ages.
It is important to work with your health care provider to set your cholesterol goals. Newer guidelines steer doctors away from targeting specific levels of cholesterol. Instead, it recommends different medicines and doses depending on a person's history and risk factor profile.
General targets are:
If your cholesterol results are abnormal, you may also have other tests such as:
Steps you can take to improve their cholesterol levels, and help prevent heart disease and a heart attack include:
Your provider may want you to take medicine for your cholesterol if lifestyle changes do not work. This will depend on:
You are more likely to need medicine to lower your cholesterol:
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.
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.
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.
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Stone NJ, Robinson J, Lichtenstein AH, et al. 2013 ACC/AHA guideline on the treatment of blood cholesterol to reduce atherosclerotic cardiovascular risk in adults: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation. 2014;129(25 Suppl 2):S1-S45. PMID: 24222016 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24222016.
US Preventive Services Task Force. Draft Recommendation Statement Statin Use for the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in Adults: Preventive Medication. Updated December 2015. www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Document/draft-recommendation-statement175/statin-use-in-adults-preventive-medication1. Accessed July 21, 2016.
- Review date:
- December 07, 2016
- Reviewed by:
- Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, WA. Internal review and update on 07/24/2016 by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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