High Cholesterol Risk

Did you know that having high cholesterol increases your risk of developing heart disease or having a heart attack? Specifically, a higher LDL level puts you at greater risk. Some people also have a greater chance of developing heart disease based on factors such as family history, high blood pressure, and nicotine use.

What Is the Risk With High Cholesterol?

The main goal of high cholesterol treatment is to lower your low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad" cholesterol) level enough to reduce your risk of having a heart attack or diseases caused by hardening of the arteries (known as atherosclerosis).
 
In general, the higher your LDL level and the more risk factors you have, the greater your chances of developing heart disease or having a heart attack. (A risk factor is a condition that increases your chance of getting a disease.)
 
Some people are at a high risk for heart attack because they already have heart disease. Other people are at high risk for developing heart disease because they have diabetes or a combination of risk factors for heart disease.
 

Determining Your High Cholesterol Risk

Check the following list to see how many of the heart disease risk factors you have. These items include:
 
  • Cigarette smoking
  • High blood pressure (140/90 mmHg or higher), or if you are on blood pressure medicine
  • High density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (less than 40 mg/dL)
  • Family history of early heart disease (heart disease in father or brother before age 55; heart disease in mother or sister before age 65)
  • Age (men 45 years or older; women 55 years or older).
     
If you have two or more of these factors, see Heart Disease Risk to calculate your risk score. A risk score refers to the chance of having a heart attack in the next 10 years, given as a percentage.
 
Use your medical history, number of risk factors, and risk score to determine your risk of developing heart disease or having a heart attack according to the following table.
 
If You Have
You Are in Category
And Your LDL Goal Is
Heart disease, diabetes, or a risk score higher than 20%
I. Highest risk
Less than 100 mg/dL
Two or more risk factors and a risk score between 10% and 20%
II. Next highest risk
Less than 130 mg/dL
Two or more risk factors and a risk score lower than 10%
III. Moderate risk
Less than 130 mg/dL
One or no risk factors
IV. Low to moderate risk
Less than 160 mg/dL
 
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Information on High Cholesterol

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