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

High Cholesterol Facts

Image of cholesterol in the arteries.

As cholesterol builds up in the arteries, they begin to narrow, which lessens or blocks the flow of blood.

Learn more about high cholesterol and its risk factors. It’s important for everyone to know the facts about high cholesterol [PDF-281K].

High Cholesterol in the United States

  1. 73.5 million adults (31.7%) in the United States have high low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad,” cholesterol.1
  2. Fewer than 1 out of every 3 adults (29.5%) with high LDL cholesterol has the condition under control.2
  3. Less than half (48.1%) of adults with high LDL cholesterol are getting treatment to lower their levels.1
  4. People with high total cholesterol have approximately twice the risk for heart disease as people with ideal levels.
  5. Nearly 31 million adult Americans have a total cholesterol level greater than 240 mg/dL.1 What are ideal cholesterol levels?

High Cholesterol Levels Vary by Race and Ethnicity

Cholesterol levels vary by race, ethnicity, and sex. The chart below shows the percentages of people with high LDL cholesterol (130 mg/dL or more) in the United States.1

Racial or Ethnic GroupMen (%)Women (%)
Non-Hispanic Blacks30.733.6
Mexican Americans38.831.8
Non-Hispanic Whites29.432.0

Americans Are Making Progress on High Cholesterol

Although you can’t control all of your risk factors for high cholesterol, you can take steps to prevent high cholesterol and its complications.

  • Between 1999 and 2012, the percentage of American adults with high total cholesterol decreased from 18.3% to 12.9%.3
  • The percentage of American adults with high LDL cholesterol has dropped about 2% since 2000. Treatment of high LDL cholesterol has increased from only 28.4% in 1999–2002 to 48.1% in 2005–2008.1

Talk with Your Health Care Team About Cholesterol

  • All adults should have their cholesterol levels checked once every 5 years.
  • During 2009–2010, 69.4% of Americans age 20 and older reported that they had their cholesterol checked within the last 5 years.3
  • In 2009, 96 million health care office visits (9.2% of all visits) included a cholesterol test.4

CDC Fact Sheets Related to High Cholesterol


  1. Mozaffarian D, Benjamin EJ, Go AS, Arnett DK, Blaha MJ, Cushman M, et al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2015 Update: A Report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2014 Dec 17 [Epub ahead of print].
  2. CDC. National Health Report: Leading Causes of Morbidity and Mortality and Associated Behavioral Risk and Protective Factors—United States, 2005–2013. MMWR. 2014;63(04);3–27.
  3. Carroll MD, Kit BK, Lacher DA, Yoon SS. Total and High-density Lipoprotein Cholesterol in Adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2011–2012. NCHS Data Brief, No. 132. Hyattsville, MD, National Center for Health Statistics; 2013.
  4. CDC. National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 2009 Summary Tables [PDF-381K].