Cholesterol is a fat (also called a lipid) that your body needs to work properly. Cholesterol levels that are too high can increase your chance of getting heart disease, stroke, and other problems.
The medical term for high blood cholesterol is lipid disorder, or hyperlipidemia.
Lipid disorders; Hyperlipoproteinemia; Hyperlipidemia; Dyslipidemia; Hypercholesterolemia
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
There are many types of cholesterol. The ones talked about most are:
- Total cholesterol - all the cholesterols combined
- High density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol - often called "good" cholesterol
- Low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol - often called "bad" cholesterol
For most people, abnormal cholesterol levels are the result of an unhealthy lifestyle -- most commonly, eating a diet that is
- Being overweight
- Heavy alcohol use
- Lack of exercise and leading an inactive lifestyle
Higher levels of female hormones increase or change cholesterol levels. This may include women who take birth control pills or estrogen, or who are pregnant,
Medicines such as certain diuretics (water pills), beta-blockers, and some medicines used to treat depression may also raise cholesterol levels.
Several disorders that are passed down through families lead to abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels. They include:
Familial combined hyperlipidemia Familial dysbetalipoproteinemia Familial hypercholesterolemia Familial hypertriglyceridemia
Smoking does not cause higher cholesterol levels, but it can reduce your HDL ("good") cholesterol.
Review Date: 05/20/2011
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.