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High blood cholesterol levels


Definition:

Cholesterol is a fat (also called a lipid) that your body needs to work properly. But too much bad cholesterol can increase your chance of getting heart disease, stroke, and other problems.

The medical term for high blood cholesterol is lipid disorder, or hyperlipidemia.

Alternative Names:

Lipid disorders; Hyperlipoproteinemia; Hyperlipidemia; Dyslipidemia; Hypercholesterolemia

Treatment:

There are steps everyone can take to improve their cholesterol levels, and help prevent heart disease and a heart attack.

Quit smoking. This is the single most important change you can make to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Other important lifestyle changes:

  • Eat foods that are naturally low in fat. These include whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Use low-fat toppings, sauces, and dressings.
  • Look at food labels. Avoid foods that are high in saturated fat.
  • Exercise regularly
  • Lose weight if you are overweight

See also: Cholesterol and lifestyle

Your doctor may want you to take medicine for your cholesterol if lifestyle changes do not work. This will depend on:

  • Your age
  • Whether or not you have heart disease, diabetes, or other blood flow problems
  • Whether you smoke or are overweight
  • Whether you have high blood pressure or diabetes

You are more likely to need medicine to lower your cholesterol:

  • If you have heart disease or diabetes, your LDL cholesterol should stay below 100
  • If you are at risk for heart disease (even if you do not yet have any heart problems), your LDL cholesterol should be below 130
  • Almost everyone else may get health benefits from LDL cholesterol that is lower than 160 to 190

There are several types of drugs to help lower blood cholesterol levels, and they work in different ways. Statins are one kind of drug that lower cholesterol.

References:

Daniels SR, Greer FR; Committee on Nutrition. Lipid screening and cardiovascular health in childhood. Pediatrics. 2008;122198-208.

Genest J, Libby P. Lipoprotein disorders and cardiovascular disease. In: Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 47.

Semenkovich, CF. Disorders of lipid metabolism. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 213.

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for lipid disorders in adults: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ);2008 Jun.

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for lipid disorders in children. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ);2007 Jul.


Review Date: 6/3/2012
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 2002 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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