High cholesterol

Cholesterol is a type of fat in your blood. Most cholesterol is made by your body, but eating fatty foods can lead to high cholesterol levels. Your arteries may clog up with the fatty cholesterol and which increases your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Key points

  1. You cannot tell or feel if you have high cholesterol.
  2. Having your cholesterol checked is very simple.
  3. Talk to your doctor or nurse about your overall heart risk and what you can do to keep your heart and cholesterol numbers well controlled.
  4. With treatment and lifestyle changes, the risks of complications from high cholesterol are much less.
  5. If you need medication, take it every day as prescribed and ask questions if you don't understand anything.  

How do I know if I have high cholesterol?

High cholesterol usually does not have symptoms. The only way to find out if your cholesterol is high is to have a blood test called a lipid profile. This measures the amount of cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood. Read more about cholesterol testing.

What is the treatment for high cholesterol?

Your doctor will assess your risk of heart attack or stroke based on your lipid profile results and other risk factors such as age, sex, blood pressure, smoking and diabetes. Your doctor may give you medication such as statins to lower cholesterol and reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

What else can I do to lower my cholesterol?

You may be able to reduce your cholesterol by making changes to your lifestyle such as:

  • Eating healthy foods, including lots of fruit and vegetables, low or reduced fat milk, lean meat, nuts and seeds.
  • Avoiding takeaways and deep fried foods, cakes, biscuits, pastries and chips.
  • Reducing red meat, cheese and butter.
  • Staying at a healthy weight.
  • Exercising regularly – being active for at least 30 minutes a day most days of the week.
  • Not drinking too much alcohol.


(Image source: Best Practice Advocacy Centre New Zealand)

Learn more

What your lipid test means for you Best Practice Advocacy Centre New Zealand
Information and Lifestyle tips to cut cholesterol Better Health Channel (AU)
Cholesterol management Heart Foundation (NZ)
Cholesterol – Explained American Heart Association (USA)
Cholesterol build up ACLS Training Centre (Note this article has American reference ranges for cholesterol) 

Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team. Reviewed By: Andy McLachlan, Counties Manukau DHB Last reviewed: 18 Apr 2017