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What is High Cholesterol?

Cholesterol, in and of itself, is not bad for you. The human body requires it to work, and usually makes enough for itself. However, poor diet, low activity levels, and genetic predisposition can cause cholesterol levels to rise, which can have serious side-effects. 

There are 2 types of cholesterol - LDL and HDL. 

  • LDL: Usually known as 'Bad cholesterol', this type makes up the majority of your body's cholesterol stores. When you have high levels of LDL, the vessels and arteries in your heart can become blocked, which can lead to heart disease and stroke.
  • HDL: Commonly known as 'Good cholesterol', this type can flush LDL out of your system, and can even reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke.

Why Should You Care?

  • 1/6 of the adult U.S. population has high cholesterol!
  • Typically, you want the ratio between LDL and HDL to be between 1 and 3.6, although lower is better
  • American average total cholesterol is approximately 200 mg/dL, which is elevated
  • A higher percentage of males have elevated cholesterol than women across all ethnic groups
    • However, based on gender alone, women typically have higher cholesterol levels
  • Cholesterol levels in individuals older than 20 have dropped over the past two decades 
    • Possibly due to greater awareness of the risks of elevated cholesterol         

Causes / Risk Factors

High cholesterol, specifically LDL levels, are raised by by several factors:

  • Age
  • Diet
  • Physical inactivity
  • Diabetes
  • Weight
  • Family History


Most of the symptoms for High Cholesterol are hard to detect. Please see a healthcare provider to check your numbers.


  • Eat healthy, exercise and maintain a healthy weight                           
  • Treat high cholesterol with:
    • Statins
      • Lower LDL by slowing liver production
    • Bile acid sequestrants
      • Remove bile acids, which raise LDL levels
    • Niacin
      • B vitamin that improves lipoprotein levels
      •  Raises HDL
      • Lowers total cholesterol and LDL
      • Lowers triglyceride levels
    • Fibrates
      • Lower triglycerides
      • Raise HDL levels


For more information, please visit the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website or the Center for Disease Control cholesterol section.

* CIS does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The content is for informational purposes only. 

Source: Center for Disease Control

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