Why? When there is too much cholesterol (a fat-like substance) in the blood, it builds up in the walls of arteries. Over time, this buildup causes arteries to become narrowed, and blood flow to the heart is slowed or blocked. If the blood supply to a portion of the heart is completely cut off, a heart attack results.
Various factors affect cholesterol levels: diet, weight, physical activity, age and gender, and heredity.
High Blood cholesterol itself does not cause symptoms. You may not know your blood cholesterol level is too high. So, it’s important to have your cholesterol measured. Adults age 20 or older should have their cholesterol checked at least once every 5 years. It best to have a blood test called a lipoprotein profile. This test measures total cholesterol, “good” and “bad” cholesterol, as well as triglycerides, another form of fat in the blood.
High cholesterol is treated with lifestyle changes-a heart healthy eating plan, physical activity, and loss of excess weight-and, if those do not lower it enough, medication. Medications include statins, bile acid sequestrants, nicontinic acid, and fibric acids.
Revision date: June 18, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD