High cholesterol occurs when there is too much or an unhealthy balance of cholesterol in the blood.  Your body needs some cholesterol for healthy functioning but too much is dangerous to your health.  High cholesterol has no symptoms.  The only way to find out if you have high cholesterol is to get tested with a simple blood test.  High cholesterol is treated with lifestyle changes, dietary changes, and medications.  Untreated high cholesterol increases the risk for heart and blood vessel disease, including heart attack and stroke.


  • Eating high-fat or high-cholesterol foods
  • Familial hypercholesterolemia: that is inherited.
  • Medical conditions: liver disease, diabetes, Cushing’s syndrome, kidney disease, or an underactive thyroid
  • Medications: birth control pills, estrogen, corticosteroids, some diuretics, and beta-blockers
  • Lifestyle factors: smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and lack of exercise
  • Excess weight can increase your LDL level. 

Both children and adults can have high cholesterol.  Cholesterol levels tend to increase with age.  For women, cholesterol typically increases around menopause.

Diagnosis: Our total cholesterol level can be identified with a blood test. A total cholesterol of 200 mg/dL or lower is desirable and puts you at a lower risk for heart disease. The higher your total cholesterol, the greater your risk for heart disease. A total cholesterol of 200-239 mg/dL is considered borderline high. High total cholesterol readings are 240 mg/dL and greater. Triglycerides are fats that are used to build cholesterol.  High levels of triglycerides can contribute to heart disease. Optimally, you want your LDL results to be low, your HDL rates to be high, and your triglyceride rates to be low to reduce your risk for heart disease. 

Treatment: The goal of treatment for high cholesterol is to lower cholesterol levels into the healthy ranges to reduce the risk of heart disease. High cholesterol is treated with lifestyle changes, special diets, and medications.

Lifestyle change: includes not smoking, losing weight, maintaining a healthy weight, and exercising regularly.

Diet: eat a low fat, low cholesterol, high fiber diet.

Medication: If lifestyle and dietary changes alone do not lower your cholesterol into healthy ranges, your doctor will prescribe cholesterol lowering medications. 

After being diagnosed with high cholesterol, you will receive regular monitoring by your doctor.  Your doctor will evaluate your cholesterol levels, the effectiveness of your medications, and check for any medication side effects.