High Cholesterol

Hypercholesterolemia (literally: high blood cholesterol) is the presence of high levels of cholesterol in the blood. It is not a disease but a metabolic derangement that can be secondary to many diseases and can contribute to many forms of disease, most notably cardiovascular disease. It is closely related to the terms "hyperlipidemia" (elevated levels of lipids) and "hyperlipoproteinemia" (elevated levels of lipoproteins).

Signs & Symptoms

Elevated cholesterol does not lead to specific symptoms unless it has been longstanding. Some types of hypercholesterolemia lead to specific physical findings: xanthoma (thickening of tendons due to accumulation of cholesterol), xanthelasma palpabrum (yellowish patches around the eyelids) and arcus senilis (white discoloration of the peripheral cornea).

Longstanding elevated hypercholesterolemia leads to accelerated atherosclerosis; this can express itself in a number of cardiovascular diseases:
  • Angina pectoris, leading to PTCA or CABG
  • Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
  • Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs)
  • Cerebrovascular accidents/Strokes
  • Peripheral artery disease (PAD)

There are a number of causes for high cholesterol:
  • Diabetes mellitus and metabolic syndrome
  • Kidney disease (nephrotic syndrome)
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Zieve's syndrome
  • Family history

Diet: Saturated fat and cholesterol in the food you eat make blood cholesterol levels rise. Saturated fat is the main culprit, but dietary cholesterol also matters. Limiting the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet helps lower one's cholesterol level.
Weight: Being overweight is a definite risk factor for heart disease. It also tends to increase your cholesterol. Losing weight can help lower your LDL and total cholesterol levels, as well as raise your HDL and lower your triglyceride levels.
Physical Activity: Lack of physical activity is a risk factor for heart disease. Regular physical activity can also help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels. It also helps you lose weight.

All three of these activities done together can have a positive effect on one's blood cholesterol level.