Dr. Carolyn Burns recent talk on Lipids and Your Heart can be viewed here.

High cholesterol, or hyperlipidemia, occurs when your blood has too many lipids (fats) in it. Cholesterol and triglycerides, terms you might have heard before,  are both lipids. Hyperlipidemia occurs when there are too many LDLs (low density lipoproteins) in your blood. LDLs are prone to collecting and adhering to the walls of your blood vessels, impeding the flow of your blood.  If enough LDLs collect together, they can lead to a blood clot, which can cause a heart attack.

Blood cholesterol is a balance, and too few HDLs (high-density lipoproteins) in your blood can also hurt your health. The balance also extends to your lifestyle.  Your smoking, eating, and exercise habits all help determine your LDL profile.  They will be key areas of focus for your doctor.


Unfortunately, there are no symptoms which can be observed to predict high cholesterol.  Blood tests are the only reliable way to discover high cholesterol.


Blood tests will check for the following:

  • Total cholesterol
  • LDL cholesterol
  • HDL cholesterol
  • Triglycerides


Changes to your diet and lifestyle will both help protect you against high cholesterol. However, they might not be enough. In that case, you’ll take medications such as the following:

  • Statins
  • Bile-acid-binding resins
  • Cholesterol absorption inhibitors
  • Injectable medications
  • Fibrates
  • Niacin
  • Omega-3 fatty acid supplements


Your doctor will work with you to create a plan for your recovery. It will likely involve heart-healthy lifestyle changes, medication, and periodic blood tests which will screen for any side effects or health setbacks. Another important part of your aftercare will be monitoring signs of other related complications.


What activities raise my risk of high cholesterol?

Eating meats, whole dairy products, egg yolks, and some fish can raise your cholesterol levels.  Being overweight can raise your LDLs and lower your HDLs.

For women, LDL levels tend to increase after menopause.

How can I lower my LDL levels?

  • Lower your intake of overall fat, saturated fat, and high-cholesterol foods
  • Remove the skin and fat from meat, poultry, and fish
  • Refrain from frying your food
  • Consume whole grain foods: cereals, breads, rice, and whole grain pastas
  • Exercise every day
  • If you are overweight, lose weight
  • Stop smoking
  • Take high blood cholesterol, if prescribed by your doctor

Who treats high cholesterol?

In the United States, approximately one out of three adults over the age of 20 suffer from high cholesterol. In recent years, a new medical field that deals specifically with the correlation between lipids in the bloodstream and cardiovascular disease, called Lipidology, has been introduced. Lipidology studies the prevention of cholesterol and other lipid disorders. Physicians who specialize in Lipidology are called Lipidologists.