High cholesterol produces no symptoms, so the only way to find out if it is high is to have a lipid panel test, according to WebMD. This type of blood test provides information on all the fats in the bloodstream, including total cholesterol and HDL and LDL cholesterol.
Cholesterol is a lipid found in the blood, explains WebMD. If it builds up in the arteries, it causes atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. When this occurs, it can lead to the formation of blood clots or inflammation that causes strokes and heart attacks.
A variety of factors influences cholesterol levels, including nutrition. Eating foods with elevated levels of trans or saturated fats or cholesterol can cause cholesterol levels to rise. Being overweight or leading a sedentary lifestyle with little exercise or activity may lower good, or HDL, cholesterol levels, notes WebMD.
Other factors that play a role in elevated cholesterol levels include age, since cholesterol begins to rise from age 20 onward, and family history of the condition, since having a family member with high cholesterol is a strong indicator an individual also develops the condition, states WebMD. Treatment for high cholesterol involves nutritional and lifestyle changes, such as dietary restrictions, losing weight and exercising regularly. Prescription medication to lower high cholesterol is available.