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Hypercholesterolemia (High Blood Cholesterol)

Abnormally high levels of cholesterol in the blood.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Institutes of Health)

High Blood Cholesterol

To understand high blood cholesterol (ko-LES-ter-ol), it helps to learn about cholesterol. Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that's found in all cells of the body.

Your body needs some cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help you digest foods. Your body makes all the cholesterol it needs. However, cholesterol also is found in some of the foods you eat.

Cholesterol travels through your bloodstream in small packages called lipoproteins (lip-o-PRO-teens). These packages are made of fat (lipid) on the inside and proteins on the outside.

Two kinds of lipoproteins carry cholesterol throughout your body: low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). Having healthy levels of both types of lipoproteins is important.

LDL cholesterol sometimes is called "bad" cholesterol. A high LDL level leads to a buildup of cholesterol in your arteries. (Arteries... Read more about Hypercholesterolemia

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Low‐fat diets for acquired hypercholesterolaemia

There is currently no firm evidence of the long‐term (at least six months) effects of low‐fat diets for otherwise healthy people with acquired, that is not familial hypercholesterolaemia (high cholesterol levels in the blood). Various low‐fat diets have been investigated in people with long‐term illnesses, however, a high quality trial of at least six months duration in otherwise healthy people with high blood cholesterol is needed.

Isoflavones for hypercholesterolaemia

Hypercholesterolaemia is the presence of high levels of cholesterol in the blood. In humans, hypercholesterolaemia is often due to high low‐density‐lipoprotein (LDL)‐cholesterol levels, the so‐called 'bad' cholesterol. People with hypercholesterolaemia have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks or strokes. Isoflavones, which are chemicals in plants similar to phyto‐oestrogen, may be helpful in improving hypercholesterolaemia. Soy and red clover are rich sources of isoflavones. Asian people consume more isoflavones from their regular diet than Western people.

Dietary modifications for managing familial hypercholesterolaemia

Familial hypercholesterolaemia is an inherited disorder characterised by a raised blood cholesterol, and premature ischaemic heart disease. Changing diet is an important management option to reduce low‐density lipoprotein cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) levels. Recently, certain lipid‐lowering drugs have shown to be safe and effective for the treatment of children with familial hypercholesterolaemia. However, dietary management remains important either on its own or combined with drug therapy. Several strategies are used to modify diet. This review aimed to compare cholesterol‐lowering dietary interventions either in combination with each other or alone. These interventions included adding omega‐3 fatty acids or plant sterols or plant stanols or soya proteins to diet. Fifteen trials were included in this updated review. The included trials had either a low or unclear risk of bias for most of the domains used for risk assessment. All the trials were short term and the majority were cross‐over in design. For most of the comparisons there was no significant difference in the various intervention strategies when compared to cholesterol‐lowering diet. However, for total cholesterol levels, serum low density lipoprotein (LDL) concentrations, a significant benefit was obtained with plant sterols. However, before drawing any conclusions, methodological problems with pooling results from cross‐over trials should be considered. There is a need for long‐term trials with parallel group design to assess the potential benefits and harms of a cholesterol‐lowering diet.

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Summaries for consumers

Lomitapide (Lojuxta, Juxtapid) for familial hypercholesterolemia: Overview

Lomitapide (trade names: Lojuxta, Juxtapid) has been approved in Germany since 2013 as an additional treatment for adults with homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia who cannot lower high cholesterol levels enough through other drugs and diet alone.

Low‐fat diets for acquired hypercholesterolaemia

There is currently no firm evidence of the long‐term (at least six months) effects of low‐fat diets for otherwise healthy people with acquired, that is not familial hypercholesterolaemia (high cholesterol levels in the blood). Various low‐fat diets have been investigated in people with long‐term illnesses, however, a high quality trial of at least six months duration in otherwise healthy people with high blood cholesterol is needed.

Isoflavones for hypercholesterolaemia

Hypercholesterolaemia is the presence of high levels of cholesterol in the blood. In humans, hypercholesterolaemia is often due to high low‐density‐lipoprotein (LDL)‐cholesterol levels, the so‐called 'bad' cholesterol. People with hypercholesterolaemia have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks or strokes. Isoflavones, which are chemicals in plants similar to phyto‐oestrogen, may be helpful in improving hypercholesterolaemia. Soy and red clover are rich sources of isoflavones. Asian people consume more isoflavones from their regular diet than Western people.

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Terms to know

Blood Cholesterol
A type of fat produced by the liver and found in the blood. Cholesterol is also found in some foods. The body uses cholesterol to make hormones and build cell walls.
Dietary Cholesterol
A waxy, fat-like substance made in the liver, and found in the blood and in all cells of the body. Cholesterol is important for good health and is needed for making cell walls, tissues, hormones, vitamin D, and bile acid. Cholesterol also comes from eating foods taken from animals such as egg yolks, meat, and whole-milk dairy products.
Dietary Fat
One of the three main nutrients in food. Foods that provide fat are butter, margarine, salad dressing, oil, nuts, meat, poultry, fish, and some dairy products.
High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol (HDL Cholesterol)
HDL cholesterol stands for high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, which is a fat found in the blood that takes extra cholesterol from the blood to the liver for removal. Sometimes called "good" cholesterol.
Hyperlipidemia
Abnormally high levels of lipids (cholesterol, triglycerides) in the blood.
Lipids
A fatty, waxy, or oily compound that will not dissolve in water. Lipids are a major part of biological membranes.
Lipoproteins
Lipid-protein complexes involved in the transportation and metabolism of lipids in the body.
Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol (LDL Cholesterol)
LDL cholesterol stands for low-density lipoprotein cholesterol; a fat found in the blood that takes cholesterol around the body to where it is needed for cell repair and also deposits it on the inside of artery walls. Sometimes called "bad" cholesterol.
Saturated Fat
A type of dietary fat that can increase the risk of heart disease. Saturated fat is found in meat, poultry skin, butter, lard, shortening, and all milk and dairy products except fat-free versions.
Trans Fat
A type of fat that has certain chemical properties and is usually found in processed foods such as baked goods, snack foods, fried foods, shortening, margarine, and certain vegetable oils. Eating trans fat increases blood cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease.
Very Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol (VLDL cholesterol)
VLDL stands for very-low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. A form of cholesterol in the blood. High levels may be related to cardiovascular disease.

More about Hypercholesterolemia

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Also called: Hypercholesterolaemia

See Also: Atherosclerosis

Other terms to know: See all 11
Blood Cholesterol, Dietary Cholesterol, Dietary Fat

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