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How common is high cholesterol?

Robert S. Kaufmann, MD
Internal Medicine
High cholesterol is very common. I would say about 70 percent of my patients have high cholesterol. It's hereditary, and even with diet and exercise you can still develop it. An example is I exercise everyday of the week and I'm on a very good diet, yet I take two medications for my high cholesterol.

Similar to hypertension, high cholesterol is more common in men older than 45 years old and women older than 55.

There are a number of risk factors that can lead to high cholesterol:
  • Smoking tobacco
  • Weight
  • Physical activity
  • High blood pressure
  • Heredity
  • Stress
  • Age (women who are 55 years or older and men who are 45 years or older)
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in every six adults -- or 16.3% of the population -- has high cholesterol, defined as 240 mg/dL or higher. The average cholesterol level among American adults is 200 mg/dL, which is borderline high risk.

More women than men have high cholesterol in the United States, which puts them at about twice the risk of coronary heart disease as those without the condition.

And don't fool yourself into thinking that high blood cholesterol is a problem only for middle-aged or elderly men and women. As the obesity rates in children, teenagers and young adults are rising, so are the rates of high cholesterol in these populations.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.