Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to navigation Skip directly to page options Skip directly to site content

Cholesterol Fact Sheet

Download this fact sheet [PDF–214K]

Cholesterol Screening 2011. Age-adjusted percent of adults ages 20 and older who have had their blood cholesterol checked within the last five years, by state. 68.0-71.2: Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Washington; 71.3-73.9: Hawaii, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming; 74.0-76.2: Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Wisconsin; 76.3-78.5: Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Minnesota, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia; 78.6-84.1: Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Virginia.
Source: CDC, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

Cholesterol Facts

  • Having high blood cholesterol puts you at risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.
  • People with high cholesterol have about twice the risk of heart disease as people with lower levels.
  • Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance. Your body needs some cholesterol, but it can build up on the walls of your arteries and lead to heart disease and stroke when you have too much in your blood.
  • 71 million American adults (33.5%) have high low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad,” cholesterol.1
  • Only 1 out of every 3 adults with high LDL cholesterol has the condition under control.1
  • Less than half of adults with high LDL cholesterol get treatment.1
  • Lowering your cholesterol can reduce your risk of having a heart attack, needing heart bypass surgery or angioplasty, and dying of heart disease.
  • Exercising, eating a healthy diet, and not smoking will help you prevent high cholesterol and reduce your levels.
  • High cholesterol has no symptoms, so many people don’t know that their cholesterol is too high. Your doctor can do a simple blood test to check your levels. The National Cholesterol Education Program recommends that adults get their cholesterol checked every five years.
Desirable Cholesterol Levels2
Total cholesterolLess than 200 mg/dL
LDL ("bad" cholesterol)Less than 100 mg/dL
HDL ("good" cholesterol)60 mg/dL or higher
TriglyceridesLess than 150 mg/dL

CDC's Public Health Efforts

Million Hearts®
Million Hearts® is a national, public-private initiative of the Department of Health and Human Services to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. Co-led by CDC and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the initiative brings together communities, health care professionals, health systems, nonprofit organizations, federal agencies, and private-sector partners to improve care and empower Americans to make heart-healthy choices.

State Public Health Actions to Prevent and Control Diabetes, Heart Disease, Obesity and Associated Risk Factors and Promote School Health
Funded by CDC, State Public Health Actions is a national program that provides a base level of funding to all 50 states and DC to focus on underlying strategies that address chronic diseases including diabetes, obesity, heart disease and stroke.

CDC funds 22 WISEWOMAN programs, which operate on the local level in states and tribal organizations. WISEWOMAN programs provide standard preventive services including blood pressure and cholesterol testing.

For More Information

For more information about cholesterol, visit the following Web sites:

To learn more about Americans' cholesterol levels, see Health, United States, an annual report from CDC.


  1. CDC. Vital signs: prevalence, treatment, and control of high levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. United States, 1999–2002 and 2005–2008. MMWR. 2011;60(4):109–14.
  2. National Cholesterol Education Program. Third Report of the National Cholesterol Education Program Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults [PDF-114K]. NIH Publication No. 01-3670. Bethesda, MD. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. 2001.