High cholesterol is called hypercholesterolemia. It refers to increased cholesterol levels in the blood.

Cholesterol is a type of lipid (fat), a waxy substance that helps build and maintain your cells, hormones, and some vitamins. But too much cholesterol can be a problem. People with high cholesterol levels are more prone to heart-related issues like heart attack and stroke.

Unfortunately, hypercholesterolemia is a common issue among U.S. adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 12% of people 20 years or older have high cholesterol. Only half of them take medication to control their cholesterol levels.

This article will look at hypercholesterolemia in a more in depth way. It will review causes, risk factors, diagnosis, and other helpful information.

Hypercholesterolemia vs. hyperlipidemia

You may have heard of the term hyperlipidemia. What is the difference between hypercholesterolemia and hyperlipidemia?

Hyperlipidemia (also known as “lipid disorder”) refers to high lipids in your blood. If you have hyperlipidemia, you might have high levels of the following lipids:

Therefore, hypercholesterolemia is a subtype of hyperlipidemia.

There are two types of hypercholesterolemia. There are different causes for these conditions.

Familial hypercholesterolemia

Familial, or pure, hypercholesterolemia (FH) is a relatively rare genetic disorder. It affects about 1 in 250 people. This condition is due to mutations in genes responsible for removing LDL cholesterol from the blood.

If you have these mutations, your blood LDL cholesterol can reach dangerously high levels. People with FH can get coronary artery disease (the most common type of heart disease) at a young age.

Acquired hypercholesterolemia

Acquired hypercholesterolemia (AH) is a much more common condition. AH is usually due to an unhealthy diet that contains a lot of sugar, as well as saturated and trans fats, such as:

“Hypercholesterolemia doesn’t cause symptoms in most cases. Some people may not even know they have it until they have a serious heart attack, stroke or other serious problem. It is important to check your cholesterol levels regularly.”

If you have FH, lack of prompt treatment may cause the following symptoms:

There are symptoms and consequences of high cholesterol.

Your doctor will likely diagnose hypercholesterolemia using a lipid panel. It measures your total cholesterol level, as well as your LDL cholesterol, HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.

If your cholesterol levels are too high, you may be diagnosed with hypercholesterolemia.

The CDC recommends cholesterol screening once every 5 years for healthy adults. If you have risk factors for hypercholesterolemia, your doctor might recommend getting screened more often.

The first choice of treatment for hypercholesterolemia is usually lifestyle modification. For example, your doctor may recommend that you:

“Don’t hesitate to reach out for help if you are trying to change your lifestyle. Your healthcare team will be able to help you achieve your goals.”

In some cases, your doctor might prescribe medications to help lower your cholesterol levels. Statins are the most commonly prescribed medications for hypercholesterolemia. They block your liver from making extra cholesterol.

You can lower your cholesterol with diet, exercise and sputum.

You can’t control genetic factors associated with hypercholesterolemia. But there are certain things you can do to maintain healthy cholesterol levels:

  • include fiber in your diet and limit sugars, saturated fats, and trans fats
  • maintain a healthy weight
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • Limit the amount of alcohol that can be consumed.
  • Get regular cholesterol screenings.

High cholesterol is known as hypercholesterolemia. Hypercholesterolemia can be genetic or acquired. The first type is less common than the second type and affects many people.

Hypercholesterolemia is not usually seen with symptoms, but its consequences are very severe. It is important to get regular screenings.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is the best way to treat hypercholesterolemia, even if some medications can help.