Health Information and Tools > Patient Care Handouts >  Learning About High Cholesterol
Facebook Tweet Share

Main Content

Learning About High Cholesterol

What is high cholesterol?

High cholesterol means that you have too much cholesterol in your blood. Cholesterol is a type of fat. It's needed for many body functions, such as making new cells. Cholesterol is made by your body. It also comes from food you eat.

Having high cholesterol can lead to the buildup of plaque in artery walls. This can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.

When your doctor talks about high cholesterol levels, your doctor is talking about your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol) levels. Your doctor may also speak about HDL (the "good" cholesterol) levels. High HDL is linked with a lower risk for coronary artery disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Your cholesterol levels help your doctor find out your risk for having a heart attack or stroke.

How can you help prevent high cholesterol?

A heart-healthy lifestyle can help you prevent high cholesterol and lower your risk for a heart attack and stroke.

  • Eat heart-healthy foods.
    • Eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and other high-fibre foods.
    • Eat lean proteins, such as seafood, lean meats, beans, nuts, and soy products.
    • Eat healthy fats, such as canola and olive oil.
    • Choose foods that are low in saturated fat and avoid trans fat.
    • Limit sodium and alcohol.
    • Limit drinks and foods with added sugar.
  • Be active. Try to do moderate to vigorous activity at least 2½ hours a week. You may want to walk or try other activities, such as running, swimming, cycling, or playing tennis or team sports.
  • Stay at a healthy weight. Lose weight if you need to.
  • Don't smoke. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good. Visit for more information.

How is high cholesterol treated?

The goal of treatment is to reduce your chances of having a heart attack or stroke. The goal is not to lower your cholesterol numbers only.

  • Have a heart-healthy lifestyle. This includes eating healthy foods, not smoking, losing weight, and being more active.
  • You may choose to take medicine.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

Enter Q621 in the search box to learn more about "Learning About High Cholesterol".

Adapted with permission from copyrighted materials from Healthwise, Incorporated (Healthwise). This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty and is not responsible or liable for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.