Medical Encyclopedia


Medical Encyclopedia

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High blood cholesterol and triglycerides

Contents of this page:


Cholesterol producers
Cholesterol producers
Coronary artery disease
Coronary artery disease

Alternative Names    Return to top

Lipid disorders; Hyperlipoproteinemia; Hyperlipidemia; Dyslipidemia; Hypercholesterolemia

Definition    Return to top

The medical term for high blood cholesterol and triglycerides is lipid disorder. Such a disorder occurs when you have too many fatty substances in your blood. These substances include cholesterol and triglycerides.

A lipid disorder increases your risk for atherosclerosis and heart disease.

Causes    Return to top

High cholesterol and other lipid disorders can be inherited (passed down through families) or associated with:

If you smoke and also have high cholesterol, you have an even greater risk for heart disease.

Lipid disorders are more common in men than women.

Exams and Tests    Return to top

Tests to diagnose a lipid disorder may include:

Treatment    Return to top

How you are treated depends on your age, health history, if you smoke, and other risk factors for heart disease, such as:

There are steps that everyone can take to improve their cholesterol levels, and help prevent heart disease and heart attack. Here are the most important ones:

If lifestyle changes do not help or your cholesterol level remains very high, your doctor may may recommend medication. There are several types of drugs available to help lower blood cholesterol levels, and they work in different ways. Some are better at lowering LDL cholesterol, some are good at lowering triglycerides, while others help raise HDL cholesterol.

The most commonly used drugs for treating high LDL cholesterol are called statins. Other drugs that may be used include bile acid sequestering resins, cholesterol absorption inhibitors, fibrates, and nicotinic acid (niacin).

Outlook (Prognosis)    Return to top

If you are diagnosed with high cholesterol, you will probably need to continue lifestyle changes and drug treatment throughout your life. Periodic monitoring of your cholesterol blood levels is necessary. Reducing high cholesterol levels will slow the progression of atherosclerosis.

Possible Complications    Return to top

Possible complications of high cholesterol include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

Have your cholesterol checked every 5 years or so, starting between the ages of 20 and 30. If you have high cholesterol or other risk factors for heart disease, make appointments as recommended by your doctor.

Prevention    Return to top

To help prevent high cholesterol:

References    Return to top

Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults. Executive summary of the third report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) expert panel on detection, evaluation, and treatment of high blood cholesterol in adults (Adult Treatment Panel III). JAMA. 2001;285:2486-2497.

Update Date: 1/23/2008

Updated by: Glenn Gandelman, MD, MPH, Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine, New York Medical College, Valhalla, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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