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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About High Blood Cholesterol

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What is high cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in your body and in many foods. Your body needs cholesterol to function normally and makes all that you need. You can end up with too much cholesterol because of the foods you eat and the rate at which your body breaks down cholesterol.

Illustration of or a normal artery that is clear; an artery that is clogged with fatt material on the vessel walls; a tear in the artery wall; and a narrowed artery that becomes blocked due to a blood clot.

Excess cholesterol can build up in your arteries. After a while, the deposits narrow your arteries, putting you at risk for heart disease and stroke. Find out more about high cholesterol.


What are symptoms of high cholesterol?

High cholesterol itself does not have symptoms. As a result, many people do not know that their cholesterol level is too high.

Doctors can do simple blood tests to check your cholesterol. If you have high cholesterol, your doctor may prescribe various treatments depending on your risk for developing heart disease. Find out more about high cholesterol.


What can you do to about high cholesterol?

You can take several steps to keep your cholesterol normal:

  • Get a blood test.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Don't smoke.
  • Treat high cholesterol.

If you have high cholesterol, your doctor may prescribe medications in addition to lifestyle changes. Talk with your health care provider about the best ways to reduce your heart disease risk. Find out more about preventing and controlling high blood cholesterol.


What are the different types of cholesterol?


Low-density lipoproteins (LDL)
  • Make up the majority of the body's cholesterol.
  • Called "bad cholesterol" because high levels can lead to heart disease and stroke.
High-density lipoproteins (HDL)
  • Called "good cholesterol" because high levels reduce the risk for heart disease and stroke.
  • Scientists think that HDL absorbs bad cholesterol and carries it to the liver, which then flushes it from the body.
Triglycerides
  • Are not cholesterol, but are a different type of fat.
  • High levels can raise the risk for heart disease.
  • Are often part of a blood test doctors do to check cholesterol levels.

What levels of cholesterol are healthy?


Desirable Cholesterol Levels
Total cholesterolLess than 200 mg/dL
LDL ("bad" cholesterol)Less than 100 mg/dL
HDL ("good" cholesterol)40 mg/DL or higher
TriglyceridesLess than 150 mg/dL

Find out more about keeping your cholesterol in the healthy range.


How many Americans have high cholesterol?

Approximately one in every six adults—17% of the U.S. adult population—has high blood cholesterol.1 Anyone, including children, can develop high cholesterol. It greatly increases the risk for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. See more facts and statistics.


What is CDC doing to address high blood cholesterol?

The CDC has several programs to help people prevent and control high cholesterol. CDC funds state health departments to develop programs to help people reduce their cholesterol level. CDC's WISEWOMAN programs work to help low income or underinsured women reduce their cholesterol levels. CDC does research to analyze trends and monitor the cholesterol levels of the U.S. population, and performs laboratory measurements. For more information on these programs, please see our CDC addresses high cholesterol section.


References

  1. Schober SE, Carroll MD, Lacher DA, Hirsch R. High serum total cholesterol—an indicator for monitoring cholesterol lowering efforts; U.S. adults, 2005–2006. NCHS data brief no 2, Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2007.

 
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