High cholesterol

Cholesterol is a type of fat (lipid) that the body needs for many important functions, such as producing new cells. High cholesterol increases the risk of developing heart disease and stroke.

High cholesterol is caused by eating a diet that is too high in cholesterol and saturated fat or by having an inherited condition that causes elevated cholesterol levels.

Treatment includes eating a more healthful diet, increasing physical activity, and possibly taking cholesterol-lowering medicines.

A blood test can determine whether you have high cholesterol. Cholesterol is measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or millimoles per liter (mmol/L).

  • A total cholesterol level of less than 200 mg/dL (5.17 mmol/L) is desirable.
  • 200 to 239 (5.17 to 6.18) is considered borderline-high cholesterol.
  • 240 (6.21) or higher is considered high cholesterol.

Last Updated: July 11, 2008

Author: Robin Parks, MS

Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - Cardiology

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