Cholesterol is used by the body in several
biochemical reactions necessary for life, including making new cells, and making hormones.
Too much cholesterol can cause plaque to build up in blood vessels, putting patients at risk
for heart attack and stroke. Factors within your control — such as inactivity,
obesity and an unhealthy diet — contribute to high LDL cholesterol and low HDL cholesterol.
Factors beyond your control may play a role, too. For example, your genetic makeup may
keep cells from removing LDL cholesterol from your blood efficiently or cause your liver
to produce too much cholesterol. High blood cholesterol does not cause symptoms.
Some people with rare genetic diseases that cause extremely high cholesterol may experience
yellowish patches underneath the skin around the eyelids (xanthelasma palpebrarum). Risk
factors include: smoking, obesity, having a large waist, poor diet, lack of exercise
and diabetes. Blood levels of cholesterol can be controlled
partially by limiting foods high in cholesterol and eating foods high in fiber, which can
help remove cholesterol from the blood. Medications to control cholesterol include
statins (HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors) which have been directly associated with reduced
risk for heart attack and stroke. Examples of statins include atorvastatin, lovastatin,
rosuvastatin, and simvastatin. Other medications used to lower blood cholesterol levels include
bile acid sequestrants, fibrates, and cholesterol absorption inhibitors.