The Complete Guide to Understanding High Cholesterol

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Diet, smoking, and heredity cause high cholesterol. If you’re at risk, have routine cholesterol testing because high cholesterol seldom produces symptoms.

In the U.S., high cholesterol is frequent. Nearly 94 million U.S. individuals 20 and older have borderline high cholesterol, according to the CDC Trusted Source.

Because this ailment generally has no symptoms, you may not realis you have it until you see a doctor.

For answers on what causes high cholesterol, what to do if you have it, and how to reverse it, read on.

What’s cholesterol?

Cholesterol is fat. Your liver naturally creates this waxy, fat-like material. It helps produce cell membranes, hormones, and vitamin D.

Since cholesterol doesn’t breakdown in water, it can’t move through your blood alone. The liver creates lipoproteins to transport cholesterol.

Fat and protein form lipoproteins. They transport cholesterol and triglycerides through the blood. LDL and HDL are the main lipoproteins.

Low-density lipoproteins carry LDL cholesterol. Blood with too much LDL cholesterol may indicate elevated cholesterol. High cholesterol can cause heart attack and stroke if untreated.

High cholesterol seldom causes early signs. Thus, frequent cholesterol screenings are crucial.

Hypercholesterolemia symptoms

High cholesterol is usually “silent”. No symptoms are usually present. Many people don’t realise they have high cholesterol until they have a heart attack or stroke.

Routine cholesterol screening is crucial. Ask your doctor about routine cholesterol test if you’re 20 or older. Discover how this test might save your life.

High cholesterol causes

Cholesterol, saturated fats, and trans fats in too many diets may cause high cholesterol. Obesity increases risk. Smoking and idleness can also raise cholesterol.

Your genetics might also cause high cholesterol. Parents give children genes. Certain genes control cholesterol and fat metabolism. Your risk of high cholesterol may increase if your parents do.

Occasionally, hereditary hypercholesterolemia causes high cholesterol. The body cannot remove LDL due to this hereditary condition. The National Human Genome Research Institute Trusted Source reports that most persons with this illness have total cholesterol and LDL values above 300 and 200 mg/dL, respectively.

Diabetes and hypothyroidism might significantly raise your risk of high cholesterol and associated issues.

LDL, or “bad cholesterol”

Known as “bad cholesterol,” LDL cholesterol It delivers cholesterol to arteries. High LDL cholesterol can grow up on artery walls.

This accumulation is cholesterol plaque. This plaque can constrict your arteries, restrict blood flow, and cause blood clots. A blood clot blocking a heart or brain artery can trigger a heart attack or stroke.

HDL, or “good cholesterol”

Some term HDL “good cholesterol.” It returns LDL cholesterol to the liver for elimination. This reduces arterial cholesterol plaque.

Healthy HDL cholesterol reduces the risk of blood clots, heart disease, and stroke.

Triglycerides—another lipid—

Other lipids include triglycerides. Different from cholesterol. Triglycerides provide energy while cholesterol builds cells and hormones.

When you eat more calories than you need, your body makes triglycerides. Fat cells store triglycerides. The circulation circulates triglycerides via lipoproteins.

Triglycerides may rise if you eat more than your body needs. This increases heart disease and stroke risk.

Your doctor may measure your cholesterol and triglycerides with a simple blood test.

Get your cholesterol tested

If you’re 20 or older, the American Heart Association Trusted Source suggests checking your cholesterol every 4–6 years. If you have high cholesterol or other cardiovascular disease risk factors, your doctor may recommend more frequent cholesterol tests.

Your doctor can assess your total, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides using a lipid panel. Total cholesterol measures blood cholesterol. It contains LDL and HDL.

If your total or LDL cholesterol is high, your doctor may diagnose high cholesterol. elevated LDL and low HDL levels can cause hazardous elevated cholesterol.

Use our FamCare tool to find a primary care doctor.

Chart showing cholesterol

Patients with high cholesterol may not be prescribed medication. Different variables may impact the medicine your doctor prescribes.

Knowing this, most doctors utilize generalized metrics to design therapy. They may label these readings as desirable, borderline, or high cholesterol.

National Library of Medicine classifies most people’ total cholesterol as:
Total cholesterol Category
less than 200 mg/dL desirable
200-239 mg/dL borderline high
240 mg/dL and above high

These measures are generic. Your doctor and you will evaluate additional personal aspects before choosing a therapy.

LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels Category
less than 100 mg/dL optimal
100-129 mg/dL near optimal
130-159 mg/dL borderline high
160-189 mg/dL high
190 mg/dL and above very high

The latest cholesterol recommendations

Your body requires LDL and other cholesterol to operate. However, excessive LDL levels might cause major health issues.

American College of Cardiologists and American Heart Association modified high cholesterol therapy guidelines in 2018.Reliable Source.

In addition to cholesterol readings, the new guidelines consider family history and other health concerns as heart disease risk factors. The recommendations incorporate all these elements to determine a person’s 10-year risk of problems.

High cholesterol risk factors

The following may increase your risk of high cholesterol:

  • live with obesity
  • ingest plenty of fast food-style saturated and trans fats
  • little exercise
  • use tobacco
  • high cholesterol in the family
  • diabetes, renal disease, hypothyroidism
  • People of various ages, genders, and races can have high cholesterol.
  • High cholesterol complications

Without therapy, elevated cholesterol can develop arterial plaque. Plaque narrows arteries over time. The condition is atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis is dangerous. It restricts artery blood flow. It increases the risk of deadly blood clots.

Many life-threatening consequences can develop from atherosclerosis:

  • stroke
  • A heart attack
  • angina (chest discomfort)
  • high blood pressure
  • peripheral vascular disease
  • chronic kidney disease

A biliary imbalance from high cholesterol increases gallstone risk. Check out further health effects of high cholesterol.

Lowering cholesterol

Lifestyle adjustments may help decrease high cholesterol, according to your doctor. They may suggest diet, exercise, or other lifestyle adjustments. They’ll likely tell you to quit smoking.

To decrease cholesterol, your doctor may recommend drugs or other therapies. They may recommend you to an expert.

Dietary cholesterol reduction

To maintain appropriate cholesterol levels, your doctor may suggest diet adjustments.

They may suggest:

  • Avoid high-cholesterol, saturated-fat, and trans-fat foods.
  • Lean protein sources include chicken, fish, and lentils.
  • consume lots of fiber-rich fruits, veggies, and entire grains
  • choose baked, broiled, steamed, grilled, or roasted over fried.
  • When possible, avoid fast meals and sugary pre-packaged foods.
  • Cholesterol, saturated fat, and trans fat-rich foods include:
  • red meat, organ meats, egg yolks, and high-fat dairy
  • prepared cocoa butter or palm oil meals
  • potato chips, onion rings, and fried chicken
  • some cookies and muffins

Fish and other omega-3-rich diets may reduce LDL. Omega-3-rich fish include salmon, mackerel, and herring. Walnuts, almonds, ground flaxseeds, and avocados contain omega-3s.

Medications for cholesterol

Your doctor may prescribe cholesterol-lowering medicines.

The most frequent cholesterol medicine is statins. They prevent cholesterol production in the liver.

Statins include:

  • Lipitor (atorvastatin)
  • Fluvastatin (Lescol)
  • crestor
  • Zocor (simvastatin)

Other high cholesterol drugs your doctor may give include:

  • niacin
  • Colestipol, Colestid, and Prevalite are bile acid resins or sequestrants.
  • Ezetimibe (Zetia) inhibits cholesterol absorption.
  • Alirocumab (Praluent) and evolocumab (Repatha) suppress PCSK9.

Some products inhibit cholesterol absorption from diet and liver synthesis with a mix of medicines. Example: ezetimibe plus simvastatin (Vytorin). Discover cholesterol-lowering medications.

Natural cholesterol-lowering home treatments

Sometimes you can decrease your cholesterol without medicine. A healthy diet, frequent exercise, and no tobacco use may be enough.

Herbal and nutritional supplements may also decrease cholesterol. For instance, allegations about:

  • garlic
  • hawthorn
  • astragalus
  • red-yeast rice
  • stanol and plant sterol supplements
  • Blond psyllium in seed husk
  • grounded flax

The evidence for these assertions varies. However, the FDA has not authorized any of these products for high cholesterol. We need further study to see if they can treat this problem.

Consult your doctor before using herbal or nutritional supplements. They may interact with other drugs.

High cholesterol prevention

Controlling genetic risk factors for high cholesterol is impossible. Lifestyle factors are manageable.

To prevent high cholesterol:

  • Avoid cholesterol and animal fats and eat a high-fiber diet.
  • Keep alcohol to a minimum.
  • Keep weight modest.
  • E. Exercise often.
  • Avoid smoking.

For routine cholesterol screening, follow your doctor’s advice. They will likely recommend frequent cholesterol testing if you are at risk for high cholesterol or coronary heart disease.


Most people with elevated cholesterol have no symptoms. However, untreated elevated cholesterol might create major health problems. Fortunately, your doctor may help you manage your illness and minimize consequences.

If you’re 20 or older, ask your doctor to test your cholesterol to see if you have high cholesterol. When diagnosed with elevated cholesterol, ask about treatment options.

Follow your doctor’s treatment plan and live a healthy lifestyle to reduce cholesterol problems.

A balanced diet, frequent exercise, and avoiding tobacco may help you maintain good cholesterol levels. It may also reduce cholesterol problems.

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