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What is Hypercholesterolemia (High Cholesterol): Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors

What do You Mean by Cholesterol? From Where Does The Largest Part Of Cholesterol Originate In Your Body?

Cholesterol is a soft and thick constituent and it originates from two resources: the food and your body. Your body and specifically your liver is the primary source of making all the cholesterol that you require and distributes it via blood. Cholesterol is also present in foods from animal resources that include full-fat dairy products, poultry and meat.

What is Hypercholesterolemia

Although your body requires cholesterol in order to build healthy cells continuously, containing high levels of cholesterol or hypercholesterolemia in your body can significantly raise the chances of heart related illness.

What Does it Mean when you have Hypercholesterolemia (High Cholesterol) in your Body?

Having hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol) in your body, results in building of fat accumulation in human blood vessels. These fatty deposits will ultimately make it hard for sufficient amount of blood to pass throughout your arteries. This in turn may increase the risk of heart attack as your heart does not get a good level of oxygen – abundant blood as it requires. You are likely to get a stroke when the blood run to human brain is reduced because of hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol).

What is a Normal Cholesterol Level?

For healthy adults, The National Health Service (NHS) suggests:

  • Total/entire cholesterol in the body has to be 5.0 mmol/L or lesser (millimoles per litre).
  • LDL cholesterol has to be 3mmol/L or lesser
  • HDL level greater than 1 mmol/L
  • Triglyceride level lesser than 1.7 mmol/L

Total cholesterol level will be set lower for people who have higher risks namely high blood pressure or may be a heart disease.

  • Total cholesterol of 4mmol/L or lesser
  • LDL of 2mmol/L or lesser (The overall risk of coronary heart disease is calculated using the cholesterol numbers.)
  • The ratio of total cholesterol to HDL – total cholesterol divided by HDL – has to be lesser than 4.

Depending on the overall risk factors of the patients, individual cholesterol targets will be set by doctors. Treatment includes change in diet for cutting down bad fats or intake of cholesterol lower medication like statins and increasing exercise.

What is the Meaning of Familial Hypercholesterolemia (High Cholesterol) or FH?

The inherited disorder which causes premature and aggressive cardiovascular disease is known as Familial Hypercholesterolemia (High Cholesterol) or FH. This can cause narrowing of our heart valves, heart attacks and even strokes. Even though lifestyle and diet are important for the individuals subjected to Familial Hypercholesterolemia (High Cholesterol), it is not the result of high LDL. The genetic mutations make the liver inefficient to remove or metabolize excess LDL in Familial Hypercholesterolemia (High Cholesterol) individuals. Premature cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the end result of very high LDL levels.

What Causes Hypercholesterolemia (High Cholesterol)?

Cholesterol is transported via blood, linked to the proteins. Lipoprotein is the amalgamation of cholesterol and proteins. There are various types/divisions of cholesterol depending on the kind of cholesterol which the lipo-protein transfers. They are as follows:

  • LDL or Low Density Lipo-Protein: LDL also famously known as bad cholesterol carries particles of cholesterol all through your body. This causes your arteries to get narrow and hard as the quantity of LDL or Low density lipo-protein cholesterol increases in the interlinings of your arteries.
  • VLDL or Very Low Density Lipo-Protein: VLDL lipoprotein consists of maximum triglycerides, a kind of fat that is stuck to the proteins present inside human blood. This LDL cholesterol increases the size of LDL cholesterol which results in narrowing human blood vessels. When you have a immense Very low density lipoprotein level, even though you consume cholesterol-lowering medication you may have to take supplementary medication for lowering the tri-glycerides.
  • HDL or High Density Lipo-Protein: HDL also famously known as Good cholesterol draws out surplus cholesterol and withdraws it to the human liver.

Factors like obesity, unhealthy diet and inactivity that are under one’s control may lead to low HDL and high Low Density Lipo-protein cholesterol. The factors that are not in one’s control too can play a part. For instance, your genetic composition may induce your liver for production of hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol) or may sustain cells from effective elimination of LDL cholesterol of your body.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Hypercholesterolemia (High Cholesterol)?

Hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol) is commonly known as “the silent killer” as there are no evident symptoms and signs for majority of the people. The initial signs and symptoms when you have hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol) can be:

  • Angina. Occurs when one or more arteries are narrowed that cater the heart.
  • Heart Attack. Occurs when there is congestion in one of the arteries which feed the heart.
  • Stroke. Occurs due to obstruction in one of the arteries in the brain or neck.
  • Pain on Walking. Occurs due to blockage to the artery that nourishes the leg muscles.

The above signs and symptoms indicate the occurrence of recognized circulatory and heart disease.

Auxiliary Signs and Symptoms for Hypercholesterolemia (High Cholesterol)

People must be highly conscious about the hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol) risk. Certain things that make you prone to have hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol) levels are as follows:

  • Parents, sister, brother or child with hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol)
  • Parents, sister or brother who have had angina or a heart attack prior to the age of 60 (woman) or 50 (man)
  • Being a type 2 diabetic
  • Having a diet higher in saturated/animal fat
  • Being inactive physically
  • A white ring around the iris of the eye or fatty deposits on your eyelids

It is not likely that everyone with these signs and symptoms may contain hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol). It is mandatory for everyone above 40 years of age to have their cholesterol tested every 5 years in order to effectively prevent any cardiovascular (circulatory and heart) diseases.

What are the Risk Factors for Hypercholesterolemia (High Cholesterol)?

If you exhibit any of the following risk factors, you are more probable to possess hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol) levels which lead to heart disease.

  • Deprived diet. Hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol) foods like high fat dairy farm products and red meat increases the total cholesterol. The cholesterol level can also rise by consumption of trans fats present in certain commercially baked crackers and cookies and saturated fat present in animal products.
  • Exercise aids in reducing your body’s LDL ‘bad cholesterol’ and increases your HDL or good cholesterol. You are more likely to have hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol) risk when you are not making an effort to do any sort of physical activity.
  • Diabetes. You are likely to have high (LDL) Low density lipo-protein cholesterol and low (HDL) High density lipo-protein cholesterol as a result of high blood sugar. High levels of blood sugar will also cause damage to the interlining of one’s arteries.
  • Larger waist perimeter. If you are a woman with a waist perimeter of minimal 35 inches (89 cms) or a man with a waist perimeter of minimal 40 inches (102 cms) your risk of hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol) highly increases.
  • Smoking. Tobacco smoking destructs your blood vessel walls that make it more feasible to build up fatty deposits. Your HDL level or “good” cholesterol may also be lowered as a result of smoking.
  • Obesity. If your BMI (Body Mass Index) is greater or equal to 30, you are more likely to have hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol) risk.


  1. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). (2021). High Blood Cholesterol. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/high-blood-cholesterol
  2. American Heart Association (AHA). (2021). Cholesterol. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/cholesterol
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2021). Cholesterol. https://www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/index.htm
  4. Mayo Clinic. (2021). Cholesterol: Top Foods to Improve Your Numbers. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/cholesterol/art-20045192
  5. American Heart Association (AHA). (2021). Familial Hypercholesterolemia (FH). https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/cholesterol/causes-of-high-cholesterol/familial-hypercholesterolemia-fh

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 24, 2023

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