Hypercholesterolemia is a medical condition characterised by high levels of cholesterol in the blood. Cholesterol is a type of fat which is essential for normal functioning of the body but too much cholesterol can lead to various health problems.
Cholesterol is produced by the liver and is also found in certain foods. There are two types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). LDL is often referred to as “bad cholesterol" because it can accumulate in the arterial wall, leading to atherosclerosis (a condition in which arteries become narrowed and impede blood flow). HDL, on the other hand, is often referred to as "good cholesterol" because it helps remove LDL from the blood.
Hypercholesterolemia can be the result of lifestyle factors and/or a genetic predisposition. People with a family history of high cholesterol are more likely to develop the condition, as are those who consume a diet high in saturated and trans fats. Lack of physical activity, smoking and being overweight can also increase the risk of developing hypercholesterolemia.
The symptoms of hypercholesterolemia are often not apparent until cholesterol levels have reached dangerous levels. Over time, high cholesterol can cause a range of health problems including coronary artery disease, heart attack, stroke and peripheral vascular disease.
Treatment for hypercholesterolemia typically involves lifestyle changes such as adopting a healthy diet and increasing physical activity, as well as taking medication to help lower cholesterol levels. Statins, which are a type of medication that helps reduce LDL cholesterol, are often prescribed for people with hypercholesterolemia.