What is high cholesterol?
High cholesterol - also called hypercholesterolemia - is a condition in which the level of cholesterol in the blood is higher than normal. High cholesterol has no symptoms. Over time, cholesterol may stick to the inside of blood vessels, resulting in clogged arteries, heart disease, and stroke. Many different factors can lead to high cholesterol, including heredity, a high-fat diet, lack of exercise, and being overweight.
There are several different types of cholesterol. LDL-cholesterol or "bad cholesterol" is the type of cholesterol that is thought to cause heart disease and stroke. HDL-cholesterol or "good cholesterol" actually helps prevent heart disease and stroke. These types of cholesterol can be easily measured with a blood test. Having high levels of "bad cholesterol" is where danger lies.
Regular exercise and a diet low in saturated fat and dietary cholesterol are usually the first treatments used to lower LDL-cholesterol and raise HDL-cholesterol. In addition, people who are overweight can lower their LDL-cholesterol by losing weight. If these steps do not lower cholesterol enough, drugs may be used. Medicines used to treat high cholesterol include over-the-counter products, prescription drugs and herbal remedies.