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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > High Cholesterol
      Category : Health Centers > Cholesterol

High Cholesterol

Alternate Names : Hypercholesterolemia

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

High cholesterol is an excessive level of cholesterol in the blood. Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is used for many body processes. Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, is known as the "bad cholesterol". High-density lipoprotein, or HDL, is known as the "good cholesterol".

What is going on in the body?

The body produces all the cholesterol it needs. When too much cholesterol and other fats are consumed, the body cannot get rid of the excess. The fats build up in various cells and tissues of the body.

Cholesterol can build up on the insides of blood vessel walls. This results in atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. LDL cholesterol is the main source of build-up on the blood vessel walls. HDL cholesterol carries cholesterol back to the liver and prevents build-up on the blood vessel walls.

What are the causes and risks of the disease?

Common causes of high cholesterol include the following:

  • heredity
  • diet high in cholesterol and saturated fat
  • excess weight
  • lack of physical activity and exercise
  • smoking
  • Until age 45, men tend to have higher total cholesterol levels than women do, and women tend to have higher HDL levels. Men in their 40s are four times more likely to die from heart disease than are women the same age. However, as time goes on, the statistics for women change. After menopause, a woman's LDL level tends to go up, and her HDL level goes down. Also, her risk of heart disease continues to rise with age. After menopause, women tend to have higher LDL levels than do men of the same age.

    These health conditions may increase a person's risk for high cholesterol:

  • alcohol abuse
  • diabetes
  • kidney disease
  • liver disease
  • underactive thyroid gland, called hypothyroidism
  • These medicines may raise total cholesterol level:

  • anabolic steroids
  • certain types of medicine to lower blood pressure, such as clonidine and methyldopa
  • some diuretics, also called water pills
  • progestins
  • These medicines may reduce HDL, or good, cholesterol:

  • anabolic steroids
  • some beta-blockers
  • some progestins


    Next section


    High Cholesterol: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: William M. Boggs, MD
    Reviewer: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 05/23/01

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