Cholesterol Cholesterol
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

National Cholesterol Education Month

Too much cholesterol in the blood is one of the main risk factors for heart disease and stroke—leading causes of death in the United States. One way to prevent these diseases is to detect cholesterol and treat it when it is found. And yet, most adults with high cholesterol don’t have their condition under control.1

Two out of 3 adults have high cholesterol—or high LDL "bad" cholesterol.1 Learn more about what steps you can take to prevent high cholesterol or to reduce your levels.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that your body needs. But, when you have too much in your blood, it can build up on the walls of your arteries. This can lead to heart disease and stroke.

There are two kinds of cholesterol, high density lipoprotein (HDL). It is also called "good" cholesterol. There is also low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. It is also called "bad" cholesterol. When we talk about high cholesterol, we are talking about “bad” LDL cholesterol.

What role does screening play?

Screening is the key to detecting high cholesterol. High cholesterol does not have symptoms. As a result, many people do not know that their cholesterol is too high. Doctors can do a simple blood test to check patients’ levels.

The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) recommends that adults aged 20 years or older have their cholesterol checked every 5 years.

In national surveys done from 2005–2009, the number of people who said they were screened for cholesterol within 5 years increased from 73% to 76%. However, only a handful of states met the 80% Healthy People 2020 objective, and disparities persist among sociodemographic groups.3

How can you prevent or control high cholesterol?

Make therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLC) by eating a low-fat, high-fiber diet and being physically active most days of the week: 4

Eat a healthy diet that is low in salt; low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol; and rich in fresh fruits and vegetables. Take at least 1 brisk 10-minute walk, 3 times a day, 5 days a week. Maintain a healthy weight. Don’t smoke. If you smoke, quit as soon as possible

Have your cholesterol levels checked every 5 years and be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions and stay on your medications, if prescribed, to control your cholesterol.