High Cholesterol: Overview

High cholesterol, or hypercholesterolemia, refers to having high levels of a substance called cholesterol in the blood. It is a common chronic condition that often has no symptoms itself, but is a major risk factor for heart disease and arteriosclerosis (“narrowed arteries”). Cholesterol damages the arteries by causing a build-up of “plaque” inside the arteries, which is a yellowish-white substance inside the blood vessels.

High cholesterol is also often associated with three other chronic disorders: obesity, hypertension (high blood pressure), and diabetes (Type 2 diabetes). The group of these four disorders together is often called Metabolic Syndrome or “Syndrome X”.

High cholesterol often has no clear underlying cause, which is called primary hypercholesterolemia or idiopathic hypercholesterolemia. In this case, it is a multifactorial disorder with various lifestyle risk factors and multiple genetic factors (polygenic), but no single cause. Less commonly, there may be another major disease causing the high cholesterol, when it is called secondary hypercholesterolemia.

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Note: This site is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. See your doctor or other qualified medical professional for all your medical needs.