Understanding high cholesterol

Group of friends eating at a table outside

One of the key factors for maintaining good health is a waxy, fat-like substance in your blood called cholesterol, which can affect your overall health and well-being. Maintaining a healthy cholesterol level is a major contributor to good heart health.

There are 2 types of cholesterol:¹

  • Blood cholesterol is produced by your liver and builds cells, helps make vitamins and hormones, and digests fatty foods. This type of cholesterol is necessary for a healthy body.
  • Dietary cholesterol comes from certain meat, poultry and dairy products. If your dietary cholesterol gets too high, it may cause health problems.

People with high cholesterol can be vulnerable to numerous health issues, including heart attacks and strokes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if you have total cholesterol above 200 mg/dL, you have high cholesterol (also called hyperlipidemia).² High cholesterol is common, affecting millions of people in the U.S. There are no physical warning signs of this condition. That’s why getting tested early is so important.

What’s the difference between good and bad cholesterol?

If you have been diagnosed with low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol, you have high levels of LDL cholesterol. This can cause arterial plaque buildup, one of the leading factors for heart disease and strokes. Patients with high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol indicates a lower risk for these serious health conditions.²

Triglycerides are a type of fat in the blood that the body uses for energy.² Your total cholesterol number—based on a combination of the HDL, LDL and triglycerides numbers—is what healthcare providers use to determine your level of wellness.

What causes high cholesterol?

Many factors can cause high cholesterol. Family history can most certainly play a role in your cholesterol levels, which is called familial hypercholesterolemia (FH). FH affects how the body recycles LDL. This condition can also cause premature heart disease, so if your family has a history of FH, you should get your levels tested.³

Other factors that can negatively affect your LDL and HDL levels are:³

  • Unhealthy diet
  • Lack of exercise
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Type 2 diabetes

As we get older, our risk for high cholesterol increases. Men tend to have lower HDL levels than women. However, women have lower LDL levels than men after age 55 or until menopause.³

Because there are no symptoms of high cholesterol, the American Heart Association recommends that every adult (age 20 or older) should have their cholesterol checked every 4 to 6 years. Patients with a history of cardiovascular disease and other risk factors might consider getting tested more often.⁴

Understanding levels of high cholesterol

To avoid the risk of heart disease, monitoring your cholesterol numbers is important. Review the levels for the 3 major categories of heart health:⁵

Total Cholesterol

  • Heart-Healthy: Under 200
  • At-Risk: 200-239
  • Dangerous: 240 and higher

LDL Cholesterol

  • Heart-Healthy: Under 100
  • At-Risk: 100-159
  • Dangerous: 160 and higher

HDL Cholesterol

  • Heart-Healthy: 60 and higher
  • At-Risk: 49-59 (Men), 50-59 (Women)
  • Dangerous: Under 40 (Men), Under 50 (Women)

How to treat high cholesterol

The good news is that there are things you can do to prevent and lower your high cholesterol. Changing your lifestyle is the first step to preventing high cholesterol. This includes exercising and eating a healthy diet. However, if you made these changes, but your cholesterol levels are still high, your healthcare provider may recommend statin medications. Statins that have been proven to lower high cholesterol include atorvastatin (Lipitor®), rosuvastatin (Crestor®) and simvastatin (Zocor®).

With your doctor's approval, a few over-the-counter (OTC) supplements can help with your cholesterol levels, including fish oil with omega-3 and niacin.⁶

Also, there are natural therapies that can help control cholesterol levels. These products include:⁷

  • Astragalus
  • Hawthorn
  • Flax seed
  • Red yeast rice
  • Plant sterols
  • Garlic

How CenterWell Pharmacy can help

High cholesterol is a serious condition, but help is available to lower your cholesterol levels. We have knowledgeable pharmacists who can help you manage your heart health. CenterWell Pharmacy® offers home delivery and 24/7 emergency support as well. Find out more about how CenterWell Pharmacy can help you get the high cholesterol medicine that’s right for you, including filling or transferring a prescription.

You can also speak with a Customer Care specialist by calling 800-379-0092 (TTY: 711), Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 11 p.m., and Saturday, 8 a.m. – 6:30 p.m., Eastern time.

Disclaimer: This material is provided for informational use only and should not be construed as medical advice or used in place of consulting a licensed medical professional. You should consult with your doctor to determine what is right for you.


  1. What is Cholesterol?,” American Heart Association, last accessed July 11, 2023.
  2. About Cholesterol,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last accessed July 11, 2023.
  3. Know Your Risk for High Cholesterol,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last assessed July 11, 2023.
  4. How to Get Your Cholesterol Tested,” American Heart Association, last assessed July 11, 2023.
  5. Cholesterol Numbers and What They Mean,” Cleveland Clinic, last assessed July 11, 2023.
  6. Cholesterol-lowering supplements may be helpful - Mayo Clinic,” Mayo Clinic, last assessed July 11, 2023.
  7. 7 Natural Remedies for High Cholesterol,” Healthline, last assessed July 11, 2023.

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