by Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MDEn Espaol (Spanish Version)More InDepth Information on This Condition Understanding Cholesterol Levels Definition High cholesterol is excess levels of cholesterol in the blood. Cholesterol in the blood consists of three main components: Low density lipoproteins (LDL)involved in depositing cholesterol and other fats throughout the body. High levels of LDL put you at risk for hardening of the arteries and heart disease.High density lipoproteins (HDL)involved in eliminating cholesterol and other fats from the body. High levels of HDL are protective against heart disease.Triglyceridesa common form of fat in the body Causes Causes of high cholesterol include: Inherited tendency to have high cholesterolHigh-fat dietOverweightSedentary lifestyleExcess alcohol intakeLiver or kidney diseaseAnorexia nervosaUnderactive thyroid disease Risk Factors A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.Risk factors for high cholesterol include: Age: Cholesterol levels tend to rise as you get older. Sex: Males Females after menopauseFamily members with high cholesterolHigh-fat dietObesity, overweight Sedentary lifestyle SymptomsHigh cholesterol rarely causes symptoms. Over time, however, untreated high cholesterol often leads to atherosclerosis. This is a condition that eventually blocks the flow blood as it travels through arteries to the tissues of the body. In severe cases this may result in angina, heart attack, stroke, and other serious complications.
In people with an inherited form of high cholesterol, cholesterol deposits in the tendons, under the eyes, and around the cornea. Atherosclerosis 2008 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc. Diagnosis The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. High cholesterol is diagnosed through tests that measure levels of the following factors in your blood: Total cholesterolHDL cholesterolLDL cholesterolTriglycerides TreatmentTreatment may include: Lifestyle ChangesLimit the amount of fat and cholesterol you eat.Eat a diet high in fiber.Begin a safe exercise program recommended by your doctor.Increase physical activity in your daily life, as recommended by your doctor.If you smoke, quit.If you are overweight, lose weight.Limit the amount of alcohol you drink. Moderate alcohol intake is no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. Cholesterol-lowering Medication If diet and exercise don't lower your blood cholesterol in a reasonable period of time, you may need cholesterol-lowering medication. A partial list of medications includes: Cholestyramine (Questran)Colestipol (Colestid)Nicotinic acid (Niacor)Lovastatin (Mevacor)Pravastatin (Pravachol)Atorvastatin (Lipitor)Simvastatin (Zocor)Ezetimibe (Zetia) Statins are the most commonly prescribed medications for high cholesterol. Atorvastatin, given at 80 mg once a day, has been shown to cause the regression of atherosclerotic plaques. Combination therapy is often required for effective lowering of LDL in patients at high risk for coronary artery disease .
Last reviewed December 2007 by Jill Landis, MDPlease be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.