High Cholesterol

About 38% of American adults have high cholesterol (total blood cholesterol ≥ 200 mg/dL).1 Too much cholesterol puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke, two leading causes of death in the United States. High cholesterol has no signs or symptoms, so the only way to know if you have it is to get your cholesterol checked. Talk to your health care team about how you can manage your cholesterol levels and lower your risk.

Desirable Borderline High
Under 200 mg/dL
Above 240 mg/dl
Under 100 mg/dL
100–159 mg/dL
Above 160 mg/DL
Above 60 mg/DL
41-59 mg/DL
Below 40 mg/DL

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  • Quick Facts

    • Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that your body needs for good health, but in the right amounts. Unhealthy levels of cholesterol can lead to a condition called high blood cholesterol. 1
    • Cholesterol in your blood is carried on lipoproteins: 1
      • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), sometimes called “bad” cholesterol
      • High-density lipoprotein (HDL), sometimes called “good” cholesterol.
    • High levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol cause plaque (fatty deposits) to build up in your blood vessels. This may lead to heart attack, stroke, or other health problems. 1
    • “Good” HDL cholesterol returns cholesterol to your liver so it can be removed from the body. In healthy people high levels of HDL cholesterol may lower your risk of heart attack, stroke, and other health problems. 1
    • Unhealthy cholesterol levels are often caused by lifestyle habits, such as unhealthy eating patterns, in combination with the genes that you inherit from your parents. 1
  • Prevention

    Healthy Eating

    • Choose fat-free or low-fat dairy products, lean meats, skinless poultry, and 8 ounces of seafood weekly.
    • Read food labels to avoid trans-fat found in processed foods like baked goods. Look for soft and liquid margarines.
    • Increase fiber in your diet from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Soluble fiber found in oats, dried peas, and beans can help lower your cholesterol.
    • Learn more about healthy eating from the “Eating for Life” program.

    Physical Activity

    Increase your physical activity to a total of 30 minutes a day most days of the week, in no less than 10-minute periods. Exercise can help you lose weight and lower your LDL level while raising your HDL level.

    Take Care of Yourself

    • Avoid tobacco products.
    • Take medications as prescribed by your doctor.
    • Get regular checkups with your physician.
  • Risk Factors

    Diet - Foods high in solid fat, like cheese, butter, pizza, and many fast foods, can make your cholesterol go up.

    Weight - Being overweight is a risk factor for heart disease and can increase your cholesterol.

    Physical Activity - Regular activity can lower your total cholesterol and can help you lose weight.

    Age and Gender - As men and women get older, their cholesterol levels rise.

    Heredity - Your genes partly determine how much cholesterol your body makes. High cholesterol can run in families.

Cholesterol Information | CDC