High cholesterol occurs when the level of LDL cholesterol in the blood is too high, leading to a buildup of plaque in the arteries.
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance your body naturally produces to make hormones, vitamins and substances that help with digestion. Your body produces all the cholesterol it needs, but it also gets it from food.
Cholesterol moves through the bloodstream in packages made of fat surrounded by proteins. Two kinds of packages move cholesterol throughout the body: low-density lipoproteins (LDL or “bad” cholesterol) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL or “good” cholesterol).
HDL cholesterol moves cholesterol to the liver to be removed from the body, while LDL can lead to a buildup of cholesterol in the arteries.
Cholesterol is one of the substances found in plaque, which can harden and narrow your arteries. The higher your levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol in the blood, the higher your risk of building up plaque in the coronary arteries. The higher your levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol, the lower your risk of plaque build-up.
High cholesterol usually causes no symptoms. Many people don’t know that their cholesterol levels are too high. Regular screenings can help catch high cholesterol and give you a chance to manage it.
Your doctor can diagnose high cholesterol using the results of a simple blood test called a lipid panel, lipid profile or lipoprotein panel.
Lifestyle changes and medication can help you manage high cholesterol. Your doctor may recommend the following to manage your cholesterol levels:
Your doctor may also prescribe medication to help lower your LDL cholesterol level, including: