Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Consequences of High Cholesterol

        Health | Cholesterol

Metabolic Syndrome
Abdominal obesity, along with low levels of "good" HDL cholesterol, are two of the contributing factors to metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is characterized by several risk factors, including abdominal obesity, low levels of HDL cholesterol, and elevated levels of triglycerides, blood pressure, and fasting blood glucose. According to the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP), three or more of these risk factors renders a diagnosis of the metabolic syndrome.

Although genetic tendencies toward the metabolic syndrome may be present, it is primarily a consequence of a poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, and the resulting excess weight gain in childhood and/or throughout adulthood. Lifestyle, then, heavily influences the severity of the metabolic syndrome. The modern American diet certainly doesn't create the picture of health.

Americans tend to consume more excess calories from fat and dietary cholesterol than other countries where the rate of coronary disease is much less. Portion sizes have increased dramatically over the past decade, and many Americans don't balance this increased calorie intake with a needed boost in physical activity -- a crucial factor resulting in an increase in metabolic syndrome.

Now that you know cholesterol can cause more than heart disease, you have that much more reason to get off the couch, have fun exercising, and stay healthy.

For more information on cholesterol, check out these links:

  • Cholesterol Levels: We all know there's "good" and "bad" cholesterol. Find out why you need more of one kind of cholesterol and less of the other.
  • Causes of High Cholesterol: Diet and DNA are the main causes of high cholesterol. Learn why the numbers might be high in your case.
  • How to Lower Cholesterol: Like many conditions, eating right and exercising can help control cholesterol. Learn what that means for you.
  • How Cholesterol Works: Cholesterol is essential for the body. Find out why we need it and how much is too much.
  • Understanding a Heart Attack: Heart attack is the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S. Find out what happens in a heart attack.


Dr. Neil Stone is a professor of clinical medicine in cardiology at the Feinberg School of Medicine of Northwestern University and a practicing internist-cardiologist-lipidologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. He also serves as the Medical Director of the Vascular Center for the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute. Dr. Stone was a member of the first and third National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panels and a past chairman of the American Heart Association Nutrition Committee and Clinical Affairs Committee.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.