Once upon a time, high cholesterol was something attributed to, ahem, “older people.” Not anymore. While research shows that men over 45 and postmenopausal women are more likely to develop elevated cholesterol levels, the high cholesterol statistics that are pointing toward a growing number of children and young people suffering from this health-damaging condition are even more alarming.
To further raise high cholesterol awareness and depict clearly just how serious this preventable condition can be, we have gathered telling statistics and facts to help bring more clarity and a better understanding of this health-impairing condition.
The Top 10 Recent Facts About Cholesterol
- The liver produces 75% of the cholesterol in our bloodstream.
- There are three categories by which cholesterol is measured.
- As many as 12% of US adults had high LDL cholesterol between 2015 and 2018.
- 39.7% of US adults in West Virginia had high cholesterol levels in 2019.
- Statins are commonly used for treating high cholesterol.
- Fibric acid derivatives are used primarily to decrease triglyceride levels.
- Nearly 23% of Brazilian people suffered from high cholesterol in 2016.
- 73% of people in Bulgaria suffer from high cholesterol.
- High cholesterol, smoking, and high blood pressure are the three leading causes of heart disease in the US.
- The omnipotent avocado is a friend of good cholesterol.
Must-Know High Cholesterol Facts
Despite being an organic compound necessary for proper functioning, growth, and development, as you probably already know, cholesterol has a bad reputation.
Excessive amounts of “bad” (LDL) cholesterol are typically associated with arteries hardening, blood clotting, stroke, heart attack, and other health complications.
Let’s check the essential general high cholesterol facts.
1. Hyperlipidemia is a term used to indicate several disorders that cause more fats (lipids) in our blood. More commonly, this is referred to as high cholesterol.
While this is often a condition that will have to be managed throughout an individual’s lifetime, it is possible to successfully control it via healthy eating habits, regular physical activity, as well as prescribed medication. However, genetics also play a role in developing high cholesterol.
2. The liver produces 75% of the cholesterol in our bloodstream.
The rest of the cholesterol (25%) is produced by the foods we ingest, which further stresses the need for healthy dietary choices and lifestyle.
3. Facts about high cholesterol show that people do not experience any warning symptoms indicating this condition.
Since it is impossible to suspect high cholesterol, conducting a blood test is the only way to determine if individuals suffer from this particular medical issue.
4. There are three categories by which cholesterol is measured.
(Medical News Today)
HDL or the so-called “good” cholesterol, LDL, or “bad” cholesterol and total cholesterol are the three categories that provide a comprehensive picture of an individual’s cholesterol levels.
5. 200 mg/dL or less is considered desirable for adults in terms of total cholesterol levels.
(Medical News Today)
Total cholesterol levels of 200–239 mg/dL are deemed borderline high, while levels of 240 mg/dL or higher are dangerously over the limit, according to the high cholesterol statistics. LDL cholesterol levels should be less than 100 mg/dL. Levels over 190mg/dL are considered to be very high. Levels of 60mg/dL or higher are considered optimal for HDL or “good” cholesterol, while readings lower than 40 mg/dL are seen as a serious risk for developing heart disease.
However, these levels are not applicable to children, as both total cholesterol levels and LDL levels should be lower, with total cholesterol levels less than 170mg/dL and LDL levels lower than 110 mg/dL.
6. Cholesterol varies according to people’s age, gender, and weight.
(Medical News Today)
It is recommended to do a check-up every four to six years, especially since the human body often produces more cholesterol as it ages. Children are the least affected group, and it is sufficient to check their cholesterol levels only a couple of times before they turn 18, according to the high-cholesterol population statistics.
7. High LDL levels are considered unhealthy, while high HDL levels are considered healthy.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is commonly known as bad cholesterol. It deposits cholesterol on the walls of arteries and veins, increasing the risk of blood clotting, stroke, and heart attack.
On the other hand, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) is referred to as good cholesterol. It takes cholesterol to the liver, where the excess is eliminated from your body.
8. One of the well-known facts about high cholesterol is that hypercholesterolemia significantly increases the risk of atherosclerotic plaque formation.
Atherosclerotic plaques are responsible for several potentially life-threatening conditions. They include but aren’t limited to peripheral arterial disease, coronary artery disease, hypertension, stroke, and even heart failure.
Atherosclerotic plaque formation starts with endothelial damage. The damage impairs endothelial cell function and creates a breach in blood vessel walls, allowing a greater number of LDL particles to pass through and accumulate within them.
Then, LDL is transformed into foam-cells by macrophages. Increased lipid accumulation leads to smooth muscle cell migration to the lesion and fibrous plaque formation. Plaques decrease blood flow in the artery or support thrombus formation that can fully block the arteries.
9. As many as 12% of US adults had high LDL cholesterol between 2015 and 2018.
According to high total cholesterol statistics, their total cholesterol levels exceeded 240 mg/dL. Furthermore, 17% had low HDL cholesterol levels (under 40 mg/dL).
10. Caucasian women accounted for 14.8% of all US citizens with increased LDL levels between 2015 and 2016.
According to the CDC high cholesterol statistics, Hispanic men ranked second (13.1%), followed by Asian males (11.3%) and caucasian males (10.9%).
Facts and Statistics on High Cholesterol to Bear in Mind
High cholesterol is one of the most common health issues of the modern era. The busy lifestyle is quite limiting regarding free time left for exercising and preparing healthy balanced meals.
Genetic predispositions, the lack of a healthy diet, and physical activity combined with smoking and alcohol consumption inevitably lead to increased LDL levels and developing concerning health conditions.
Let’s check out the most telling facts and high cholesterol statistics for 2021 and the previous period.
11. Around 95 million US citizens over the age of 20 had total cholesterol levels higher than the recommended 200 mg/dL in the 2015–2016 period.
Total cholesterol levels higher than 240 mg/dL affect almost 29 million Americans. Additionally, 18% of adult US citizens had low levels of “good” or HDL cholesterol.
12. 39.7% of US adults in West Virginia had high cholesterol levels in 2019.
(America’s Health Rankings)
According to the recent high cholesterol statistics in America, West Virginia is the leading US state when it comes to high cholesterol, while Utah, with 28.6%, has the least people affected by it.
13. High cholesterol levels can be hereditary.
While lifestyle and diet choices play a huge role in developing (or not) high cholesterol levels, familial hypercholesterolemia is genetic. This means that these people usually have higher levels of cholesterol even if they lead a healthy lifestyle (regular exercise, no smoking, sensible alcohol intake) and may have to fall back on medication, like statin therapy, to control the condition.
14. Cholesterol statistics for 2018 show that younger men (45+) are more likely to suffer from higher levels of cholesterol.
(Medical Express, Everyday Health, WHO CDC)
On average, men eat more fatty foods and meat, smoke more, and consume more alcohol units, which are all known triggers of high cholesterol. Also, insulin resistance, which occurs more in men, is connected with lower levels of HDL cholesterol and higher levels of triglycerides.
15. Postmenopausal women (55+) tend to have higher levels of cholesterol than men.
While young women generally have fewer problems with high cholesterol and usually have higher levels of HDL as well as lower levels of LDL, this is attributed to estrogen production. Unfortunately, after menopause, estrogen production drops significantly, resulting in women having more issues with “bad” cholesterol than men.
16. Hispanic women have the lowest total cholesterol levels.
(America’s Health Rankings)
Age, gender, and weight all play a role when it comes to cholesterol levels, but so do race and ethnicity. Hence, white females are affected the most by high cholesterol levels. Additionally, in terms of race and cholesterol, white people suffer from high cholesterol levels more than black people.
17. Pregnant women have 25–50% higher levels of cholesterol.
This is necessary so as to produce hormones like progesterone and estrogen, which are necessary to reach the full term. In fact, babies use cholesterol to have a healthy brain and limb development. While total cholesterol levels increase during pregnancy, HDL levels also increase, and with most women, cholesterol levels go back to normal after delivery.
18. 7.4% of children and adolescents in the US between the ages of 6 and 19 have total cholesterol levels that are higher than recommended.
Moreover, high cholesterol levels were more pronounced in children struggling with obesity (11.6%) and those who were overweight (6.9%). This effectively debunks one of the high cholesterol myths and facts that children are not at risk when it comes to elevated cholesterol levels.
19. 39.4% of US adults earning less than $25,000 annually have high cholesterol levels.
(America’s Health Rankings)
There are further correlations between high cholesterol levels and lower education as 40.9% of adults who do not have a high school degree reportedly suffer from increased cholesterol levels.
20. Statins are commonly used for treating high cholesterol.
Statins like atorvastatin, fluvastatin, lovastatin, pitavastatin, pravastatin, etc., can lower high cholesterol numbers (240 mg/dL for adults).
All statins have a similar mechanism of action which includes blocking the rate-controlling enzyme HMG CoA reductase. This is why they’re also called HMG CoA reductase inhibitors.
Statins also reduce the resistance of blood vessels and decrease inflammatory processes that damage blood vessels. Furthermore, they decrease the risk of potentially fatal thromboembolism and thrombus formation by reducing platelet aggregation.
21. Fibric acid derivatives are used primarily to decrease triglyceride levels.
Fibrates such as gemfibrozil and fenofibrate also show limited effectiveness in increasing HDL levels. However, they aren’t effective in decreasing LDL levels.
Telling High Cholesterol Statistics Worldwide
It’s common knowledge that high cholesterol has become a widespread health issue around the globe. How many people are affected worldwide? Which countries are the leading high cholesterol sufferers?
Read on and find out.
22. 54% of women and men in Europe battle high cholesterol.
The official WHO data shows that those who suffer from high cholesterol and linked medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease damage the EU economy by around $58.4 billion due to decreased productivity and missed work.
23. Over €196 billion is spent in the EU on health care due to high cholesterol and related cardiovascular conditions.
An additional $48 billion is spent on informal care. Furthermore, related diseases like stroke cost Germany around $6 million and the UK $2.8 million in 2017.
24. High cholesterol levels are thought to be responsible for a third of ischaemic heart disease globally.
According to the high cholesterol death statistics, around 2.6 million deaths worldwide are attributed to elevated cholesterol, while 29.7 million disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) are also connected with elevated cholesterol.
25. 73% of people in Bulgaria suffer from high cholesterol.
Eastern European countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Lithuania, and Hungary also have high percentages of people affected by high cholesterol levels. Coincidentally, these countries also have relatively poor economies and health care systems.
Conversely, developed countries like the UK, Canada, Australia, Finland, and Israel had similar rates to the US, with the US spending more on the health care system, according to the high cholesterol stats.
26. Nearly 23% of Brazilian people suffered from high cholesterol in 2016.
This statistic refers to people who are 18 and older who have been diagnosed with high cholesterol, and it points to a 3% increase since 2014.
27. 62% of women in England who are between 70 and 74 years old suffered from high cholesterol in 2017.
Conversely, only 38% of English men in the same age bracket suffered from this condition. In fact, the research showed high cholesterol prevalence in English women who are over the age of 55 as opposed to men.
28. At least 33.3% of US citizens suffered from high cholesterol in 2020.
(America’s Health Rankings)
High cholesterol in 2020 statistics also showed that West Virginia was the state with the highest number of high cholesterol patients (39.5%). On the other hand, Wyoming and South Dakota were the healthiest states in 2020, with 28.1% high cholesterol patients.
Sobering Disease-Related High Cholesterol Stats and Facts
High cholesterol causes many localized and systemic diseases. Besides the cardiovascular system, hyperlipidemia can also significantly affect the urinary and gastrointestinal systems.
The following section explores the health issues high cholesterol may cause and their consequences.
29. High cholesterol, smoking, and high blood pressure are the three leading causes of heart disease in the US.
High cholesterol numbers reveal that 47% of Americans are affected with at least one of these three leading risk factors, and when combined with the fact that every 37 seconds one person in the US dies due to cardiovascular disease, the severity of elevated cholesterol levels becomes self-explanatory.
30. High blood pressure (hypertension) and high cholesterol are often in correlation.
(WebMD, Mayo Clinic)
According to hypertension and high cholesterol facts, the narrowing and hardening of arteries that happen because of cholesterol deposits force the heart to work much harder, which, in turn, raises blood pressure that can lead to an aneurysm, stroke, or heart attack.
31. The thyroid gland can disturb cholesterol levels.
Our thyroid gland is in direct connection with cholesterol since it produces hormones that allow our body to discard the cholesterol we do not need. Individuals suffering from hypothyroidism are at risk of elevated LDL cholesterol levels. Conversely, those suffering from hyperthyroidism can suffer from very low cholesterol levels.
32. Elevated levels of LDL cholesterol are associated with the risk of ischemic stroke, according to recent cholesterol and stroke statistics.
High cholesterol causes plaque to form in arteries, resulting in a blocked artery, which leads to ischemic stroke. Stroke is the second leading cause of death worldwide.
33. Diabetes and high cholesterol levels often go hand in hand.
This “happy” marriage is called diabetic dyslipidemia and is characterized by elevated LDL cholesterol, which happens due to diabetes lowering HDL cholesterol and increasing triglyceride, thus spiking bad cholesterol.
Good Food for High Cholesterol and Common Dietary Pitfalls
Diet has a significant role in hypercholesterolemia treatment and prevention. It’s not news that it’s often our food choices that influence high cholesterol levels.
For example, foods rich in omega-3s, walnuts, and spinach are only some of the foods that could be a valuable addition to diets of those struggling with high LDL levels.
The following stats and statistics show the relationship between high cholesterol and food and explore which treats to adhere to and which food to avoid if having high cholesterol issues.
34. Eggs and cheese are not the enemies in the battle against high cholesterol.
True, these foods are rich in cholesterol, but if taken regularly and in recommended portion sizes, they can benefit our health greatly. The same goes for sardines, full-fat yogurt, pasture-raised steak, and organic meat.
35. Ready-made pastries, cookies, cakes, and doughnuts are all classified as high-cholesterol food.
(Medical News Today)
While all these are dessert staples, these tasty treats are not going to help with your cholesterol levels. The same goes for buttered popcorn, crackers, potato chips, and commercially fried foods.
36. Dark chocolate and cocoa are delicious desserts that can help in beating high cholesterol.
Contrary to common belief, giving up on sweets is not always necessary so long as the right kind of sweets is selected — dark chocolate with cocoa content from 75–85% is not considered to be food high in cholesterol. A study showed that drinking a cocoa beverage every day for two months lowered LDL cholesterol by 6.5 mg/dL.
37. Trans-fats and saturated fats should not be part of a healthy daily diet.
While eating an occasional fast-food meal, pizza or ice cream will not inflict lasting damage (if any at all). Frequent consumption of food high in cholesterol and triglycerides can have unwanted consequences in the form of spiked cholesterol levels.
38. Fatty fish should be on your plate on a biweekly basis.
Salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, and herrings are all high in desirable omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for a healthy diet.
39. “Hug in a cup” can be a powerful ally among effective and natural products for high cholesterol.
Tea has numerous health benefits and has been used in medicine for thousands of years, but a recent study has indicated that dandelion tea could also be effective as a form of high cholesterol treatment. Other types of tea, such as ginger, peppermint, rooibos, green tea, and bitter melon tea, could also be beneficial.
40. Spice up your life and lower your cholesterol.
While these cannot technically be slotted in the category of food to help lower the high cholesterol, widely-used spices such as garlic, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, coriander, and curcumin can add flavor to your food and, in the process, help with lowering your cholesterol levels.
41. The omnipotent avocado is a friend of good cholesterol.
While this food is beloved by celebrities all over the world, the health benefits of including avocados in daily diets are not a myth but a fact since consuming just one avocado a day, while also keeping to a sensible diet, can lower bad cholesterol by 13.5 mg/dL.
42. Consuming soluble fiber can eliminate LDL cholesterol from the body.
Foods rich in soluble fiber such as apples, oatmeal, and kidney beans are examples of great food to lower high cholesterol with.
43. Eat the rainbow for healthy levels of cholesterol.
Colorful bell peppers, apples, oranges, berries, yams as well as super greens like broccoli and spinach are great food choices for boosting good cholesterol levels.
44. Embrace the gains in your daily diet.
White bread and pasta are among those treats that should be indulged occasionally, but if smart choices are made, these foods can be eaten frequently, provided they are made with whole wheat. Also, including grains such as barley, oats, and quinoa is beneficial.
What is high cholesterol?
Broadly speaking, cholesterol is a wax-like, fatty substance that is present in all cells of the human body. Small amounts of cholesterol are necessary for our bodies to produce hormones like testosterone and estrogen, to build cell membranes, digest foods, and produce much-needed vitamin D.
However, if, due to genetics or unhealthy lifestyles, our cholesterol levels rise over the recommended limit, a plaque slowly builds up in our arteries, blocking the normal blood flow, which can lead to life-threatening diseases such as cardiac arrest and stroke.
What percentage of the population has high cholesterol?
Around 33% of Americans suffer from high cholesterol, and the WHO statistics show that as many as 39% of adults who are 25 or older suffer from elevated cholesterol levels globally.
Who is most affected by high cholesterol?
According to available data, white men who are 45 years of age and older, as well as white women who are 55 years of age or older and have gone through menopause, are at the highest risk of being struck with elevated cholesterol levels.
Can you die of high cholesterol?
High cholesterol levels can trigger life-threatening diseases like heart attack, which is the number one leading cause of death in the US, while cardiovascular diseases, in general, are the leading cause of death worldwide. Also, having high cholesterol levels can lead to stroke, which is the fifth leading cause of death in the US.
Even though all the research on this vital topic shows that there is such thing as hereditary high cholesterol, the undeniable high cholesterol statistics show that keeping up a diet high in saturated fat, smoking, overindulgence in alcohol, and poor physical activity are leading causes of high cholesterol levels which may lead to life-threatening conditions like stroke and heart attack.
As with so many things, “sola dosis facit venenum” applies, which literally means “the dose makes the poison.” While we have provided you with advice on desirable dietary choices, moderation is the key for a healthy lifestyle, which needn’t exclude an occasional “naughty” treat.
- AAP Publications
- America’s Health Rankings
- Cleveland Clinic
- EAS Society
- Everyday Health
- Everyday Health
- Euro Parliament
- Mayo Clinic
- Medical Express
- Medical News Today
- Medical News Today
- Verywell Health