Hypercholesterolemia (high or abnormal cholesterol)

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance manufactured by the body.  It is necessary to help our body’s cells function properly and is how our body makes essential hormones and vitamin D.  As it is present in all animals, cholesterol is present in animal fat that we eat.  While plants do not contain cholesterol, some vegetables contain saturated fats.  Thus, some vegetables can potentially increase our body’s cholesterol level.

Too much cholesterol in our blood is called hypercholesterolemia or high blood cholesterol.   It can lead to the build-up of plaque in arteries or atherosclerosis.  The different types of fats that are present in the blood stream are known as lipids.   They are measured by doing a blood test.  There are 2 types of cholesterol that are attached to proteins:

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), known as “bad” cholesterol.

High-density lipoprotein (HDL), known as “good” cholesterol

Another type of fat that is routinely measured is known as triglycerides (TG).   Triglycerides are usually formed when you eat more calories than the body needs right away. Sugars and simple carbohydrates are huge culprits in boosting triglyceride levels.   While triglycerides were not traditionally felt to be a risk factor for the development of atherosclerosis or coronary artery disease, recent evidence suggests that higher triglycerides usually correlate with lower HDL levels and higher triglycerides are not considered healthy.

Any abnormality in the lipids in our body is known as hyperlipidemia or dyslipidemia.  Generally, the higher the amount of HDL, the less likely that cholesterol will deposit in artery walls.  HDL acts like a “garbage truck” and tends to pick up LDL.  The higher the LDL level, the more likely one will develop atherosclerosis or plaque in arteries because LDL is prone to cause inflammation as it deposits in the artery wall.

There are other important factors in determining whether your LDL or HDL levels are healthy for you, including whether you smoke, have diabetes, hypertension, a family history of heart disease or stroke, or whether you have known plaque in your arteries.

Those with a history of blocked arteries, as well as diabetics, have the greatest risk of heart disease and benefit most from cholesterol control.

Abnormal cholesterol levels increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart disease.  A healthy diet and lifestyle are very important in helping keep cholesterol levels optimal.  The most widely used and effective type of medications are statins which have evidence of not only their ability to lower LDL cholesterol levels but also prevent heart attacks and strokes.


Charles A. Shoultz, Jr., M.D., F.A.C.C.   •   Charles A. Shoultz, III, M.D., F.A.C.C.   •   Rodney A. Brown, M.D., F.A.C.C.
William R. Pitts, M.D., F.A.C.C.   •   Donald S. (Buck) Cross, M.D., F.A.C.C. • Andrew K. Day, M.D., F.A.C.C.
Sherwin F. Attai, M.D., F.A.C.C.   •   Shawn J. Skeen, M.D. F.A.C.C.   •   Harvey R. Chen, M.D. F.A.C.C.
Adam M. Falcone, M.D., F.A.C.C.   •   Brian C. Barnett, M.D., F.A.C.C.

Diplomates, American Board of Internal Medicine,
Cardiovascular Disease, Interventional Cardiology, Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology