Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Heart Disease Health Center

Font Size

The Dangers of High Cholesterol

High cholesterol is tough on arteries and your health. Here's how to fight back.
WebMD Magazine - Feature

When Ramona Richman's older sister was diagnosed with high cholesterol, Richman wasn't worried about her own risk. The San Francisco Bay Area stay-at-home mom had her weight under control and assumed that her diet was healthy. So when her doctor broke the news that she, too, had high cholesterol, she was shocked. Her reading of 269 mg/dL was well over the desirable level of less than 200 mg/dL. "My sister had high cholesterol and went on medication, so I imagine that it's a genetic thing," Richman, 48, says.

Genes can be a factor in high cholesterol, but so can being overweight, being physically inactive, and eating foods loaded with saturated fat and cholesterol. The liver manufactures all the cholesterol a body needs, but many people get substantial amounts from their diet. Regardless of the cause, high cholesterol poses dangers. It plays a major role in the development of atherosclerosis, or hardening and narrowing of the arteries, which in turn raises the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Related Medications

More information on common Cholesterol drugs from RxList:


When doctors talk about high cholesterol, they don't mean the amount of cholesterol a person gets from food, but rather how much of the substance is circulating in the blood. With atherosclerosis, the specific culprit is elevated LDL cholesterol, the "bad" kind associated with "increased risk of heart attacks and dying of heart disease," says Antonio M. Gotto Jr., MD, a professor of medicine at Weill Medical College of Cornell University and an expert on cholesterol and atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis is a gradual process. "It can start early in life," Gotto says. Fatty streaks can show up in adolescent arteries, and autopsies on men in their 20s have revealed "significant plaque in coronary arteries," he adds. "It doesn't just occur overnight." Over time, this plaque buildup can turn into a serious health threat, boosting risk of heart attack and stroke -- as people enter their 40s, 50s, and 60s, Gotto says. "Coronary disease shows a sharp increase during the 50s in men, and the late 50s and 60s in women."

How Arteries Harden

How does atherosclerosis begin to happen exactly? In a healthy artery, the inner lining, or endothelium, is smooth and intact. But disease or injury -- including diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol -- can damage this lining, paving the way for atherosclerosis.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

x-ray of human heart
A visual guide.
atrial fibrillation
Symptoms and causes.
heart rate graph
10 things to never do.
heart rate
Get the facts.
empty football helmet
red wine
eating blueberries
Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
Inside A Heart Attack
Omega 3 Sources
Salt Shockers
lowering blood pressure