What it is and how to lower the level

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol makes up most of the cholesterol in a person’s body. When a person has too much LDL cholesterol, it can build up in the walls of blood vessels, causing plaque.

Because LDL cholesterol can narrow the blood vessels over time and increase the risk of heart disease, people sometimes refer to it as “bad cholesterol.” HDL cholesterol, on the other hand, carries cholesterol to the liver for removal, rather than accumulating in the arteries. As a result, people refer to it as “good cholesterol.”

This article discusses LDL cholesterol, including possible causes, factors that can raise levels, symptoms of high cholesterol, risks and potential complications, and treatment.

There are many causes of high LDL cholesterolwith some being more treatable than others.


High levels of LDL cholesterol can run in families. If there is a change in a gene related to cholesterol, a person can develop familial hypercholesterolemia. When someone has this condition, their body struggles to remove LDL cholesterol.

The condition may affect 1 in 250 people worldwide, with 90% of them going undiagnosed, according to the Familial Hypercholesterolemia Foundation.

Read more about familial hypercholesterolemia here.

Eating pattern

If a person’s diet is high in trans fat or saturated fat, they may be at risk of raising their LDL cholesterol. Foods high in saturated fat include fatty cuts of meat and rich dairy products.

The Ministry of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that 20-35% of an adult’s daily calories come from fats. It also recommends limiting saturated fat intake to less than 10% of calories per day, starting at age 2.

Read more about saturated and unsaturated fats here.


Some medications can raise LDL cholesterol or lower HDL cholesterol. Among which:

Lifestyle habits

Everyday habits can influence LDL and HDL cholesterol levels.

  • Lack of physical activity: Doctors associate low activity levels with lower HDL cholesterol.
  • To smoke: Smoking can raise LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol at the same time.
  • Tension: When a person feels stressed, they produce certain hormones that can cause their body to produce more cholesterol.
  • Drinking too much alcohol: Binge drinking can raise cholesterol.

Health conditions

Some health problems could increase the risk of developing high LDL cholesterol, including type 2 diabetes and obesity.

High LDL cholesterol may not necessarily show symptoms, but a person with high LDL cholesterol may be greater risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition, if someone has a history of heart attacks, angina, or stroke, a doctor may closely monitor their cholesterol.

When a doctor measures someone’s cholesterol, they will check to see if LDL levels are high and HDL levels are low. They will also look at the total amount of cholesterol in the body. The table below shows recommended levels.

Most adults should check their cholesterol every time 4–6 years. People with underlying health conditions may need more frequent cholesterol checks.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)can people lower their LDL cholesterol by taking the following actions.

Making healthy food choices

A person can prevent their LDL cholesterol from getting too high by eating foods low in saturated fat and avoiding tropical oils, such as palm oil, when cooking. They can also choose high-fiber foods to raise HDL cholesterol and lower LDL cholesterol.

Read more about high-fiber foods here.

Take time to stay active

If a person is not a moderate weight or is obese, they may have an increased risk of high LDL cholesterol. If a person is not very active and has a high body mass index (BMI), they may need to increase their activity level.

Adults should strive to complete 150 minutes physical activity per week. A weekly routine can consist of 30 minutes of exercise for 5 days. For example, a person could try cardio such as brisk walking or running. Muscle-strengthening activities such as mountain hiking or resistance strength training can also help maintain a moderate weight level.

Read more about the physical and mental benefits of exercise here.

Quit smoking

Smoking has numerous harmful effects on the body. However, its effect on the cardiovascular system may increase the risk of heart disease in a person who already has high LDL cholesterol.

Read more about the health effects of smoking here.

Reduce alcohol consumption

When a person drinks alcohol, his cholesterol and triglyceride levels increase. Men should not consume more than two drinks per day. Females should limit themselves to one drink per day.

Read more about the health effects of alcohol here.

Treatment for high LDL cholesterol can differ depending on a person’s individual cholesterol levels. Prescribed medicines may include:

  • Statins: This medicine slows the production of cholesterol in the liver. It also helps the liver break down cholesterol.
  • Bile Acid Sequestrants: This drug removes bile acids, which prompts the body to make bile acids from LDL cholesterol.
  • niacin: This B vitamin raises HDL cholesterol and lowers LDL cholesterol.
  • Fibrates: This medicine lowers triglycerides.
  • PCSK9 Inhibitors: People who receive this medicine have familial hypercholesterolemia.

Conditions to which high LDL cholesterol may contribute Involving:

Multiple risk factors may be related to high LDL cholesterol, including family history, age, gender, and health problems and behaviors.

Family history

Shared genes, along with environment and lifestyle, can influence a person’s risk of elevated LDL cholesterol levels, along with other conditions such as heart disease.

Age and gender

As people age, cholesterol builds up naturally because the body is no longer as efficient at clearing it. In general, men have lower levels of HDL cholesterol and women have lower levels of LDL cholesterol until they reach menopause or are about 55 years old.

Health conditions

Health factors that can raise LDL cholesterol include:

  • rather high LDL cholesterol
  • type 2 diabetes
  • obesity
  • familial hypercholesterolemia


Certain behaviors can also increase your risk of developing high LDL cholesterol, such as not being active or eating foods high in saturated and trans fats.

If a person is concerned about his or her LDL cholesterol may be too high, they should speak to their doctor.

If a person’s LDL cholesterol is too high, they can develop atherosclerotic plaque in their arteries, which over time can cause cardiovascular disease. People sometimes refer to LDL cholesterol as “bad cholesterol” and HDL cholesterol as “good cholesterol.” HDL cholesterol transports cholesterol to the liver, where it is broken down.

People can lower their LDL cholesterol by exercising and eating foods low in saturated and trans fats. High-fiber foods can also help raise HDL cholesterol. Sometimes people inherit a gene that causes high LDL cholesterol, so it’s important that they avoid fatty foods and stay active.

High levels of LDL cholesterol can lead to conditions such as heart attack, stroke and angina. If a person is concerned about their cholesterol levels, they should contact their doctor.

What it is and how to lower the level

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