Diagnosis and Associated Comorbidities

High cholesterol usually has no signs or symptoms. The only way to know whether or not a person has high cholesterol is to have a healthcare professional conduct a blood test to check the cholesterol level.

Desirable Cholesterol Levels1-3

Total cholesterol

Less than 200 mg/dL

Low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-C, or “bad” cholesterol)

Less than 100 mg/dL

High-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (HDL-C, or “good” cholesterol)

Equal to or greater than 60 mg/dL

Triglycerides

Less than 150 mg/dL

Cholesterol numbers are important, but they are just one part of overall health. It is important to consider family history, age, gender, and other lifestyle or health aspects, such as smoking, that could raise the risk for high cholesterol.

  • Most healthy adults should have their cholesterol checked every 4 to 6 years.1
  • Some people, such as those who have heart disease, diabetes, or a family history of high cholesterol, need to get their cholesterol checked more often.4
  • Children and adolescents should have their cholesterol checked at least once between the ages 9 and 11 and again between the ages 17 and 21.2

The following common conditions, comorbidities, and behaviors are associated with hypercholesterolemia.5

  • Type 2 diabetes lowers high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (HDL-C, or “good” cholesterol) levels and raises low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-C, or “bad” cholesterol) levels; this combination raises the risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Obesity, which is linked to higher triglyceride levels, higher LDL-C levels, and lower HDL-C levels, can also lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
  • Other conditions such as familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) can cause very high LDL-C levels.
  • Eating a diet high in saturated fat and trans fat may contribute to high cholesterol and related conditions, such as heart disease.
  • Not getting enough physical activity can cause weight gain and can lead to high cholesterol.
  • Smoking damages blood vessels, making them more likely to collect fatty deposits, and may also lower HDL-C levels.

References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Getting your cholesterol checked. cdc.gov/cholesterol/cholesterol_screening.htm. Accessed November 5, 2019.
  2. Grundy SM, Stone NJ, Bailey AL, et al. 2018 AHA/ACC/AACVPR/AAPA/ ABC/ACPM/ADA/AGS/APhA/ASPC/NLA/PCNA guideline on the management of blood cholesterol: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines. Circulation. 2019;139:e1082-e1143.
  3. National Cholesterol Education Program. 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) final report. 2002;106:3143-3421.
  4. Healthfinder.gov. Get your cholesterol checked. https://healthfinder.gov/healthtopics/category/doctor-visits/screening-tests/get-your-cholesterol-checked. Accessed November 5, 2019.
  5. Knowing your risk for high cholesterol. www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/risk_factors.htm. Accessed November 5, 2019.
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