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Your Guide to Lowering High Cholesterol

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How Long Can You Live with High Cholesterol? What to Know

Medically Reviewed By Avi Varma, MD, MPH, AAHIVS, FAAFP

There is limited research into how long you can live with high cholesterol. The outlook with high cholesterol depends on factors such as whether you experience further heart disease. High cholesterol can lead to cardiovascular diseases such as stroke and heart attack. These may decrease life expectancy as a result.

However, outlook with high cholesterol depends on personal factors. Effective treatment can also significantly reduce negative effects on health.

Learn more about how long you can live with high cholesterol. This article explains factors affecting outlook, how to treat high cholesterol, and lifestyle approaches that may help increase life expectancy.

How long can you live with high cholesterol?

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How long a person can live with high cholesterol may vary widely.

People who develop cardiovascular disease resulting from high cholesterol may have a lower Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source life expectancy than people who do not.

Early treatment can lead to a positive outlook. According to experts, the outlook of high cholesterol has improved significantly since the introduction of statin medications and other treatments.

Talk with your doctor for personalized advice about high cholesterol treatment and outlook.

Read more about the health effects and general outlook of high cholesterol

.

Familial hypercholesterolemia and outlook

People with familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) may have a lower life expectancy. FH is an inherited genetic condition that causes Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source severely high low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad,” cholesterol levels.

Life expectancy can depend on whether you have heterozygous or homozygous FH.

People with heterozygous FH may have a life expectancy 10–30 years lower Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source than people without FH. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average life expectancy of the general U.S. population is 73.5 years Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Governmental authority Go to source for people assigned male at birth and 79.3 years for people assigned female at birth.

By contrast, people with the more severe homozygous FH may have a mean life expectancy of 33 years Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source , according to one 2016 study.

However, early and effective treatment can improve life expectancy.

One 2023 study suggests that people diagnosed and treated with FH early on had a significantly higher life expectancy than people who may have been undiagnosed. According to the CDC, early diagnosis and treatment can decrease the risk of heart disease by about 80% Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Governmental authority Go to source .

Factors that affect life expectancy

Factors that may affect life expectancy and outlook with high cholesterol include Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source :

  • underlying health
  • experiencing further health conditions resulting from high cholesterol, such as stroke or heart attack
  • access to treatment and treatment effectiveness
  • cause of the high cholesterol, such as Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source whether you have FH

Talk with your doctor if you have questions about your risk or factors that may affect your life expectancy.

How to increase life expectancy with high cholesterol

Treatment for high cholesterol levels can help prevent or lower reductions in life expectancy.

Treatment options for high cholesterol include:

  • Medications: Statins or bile acid sequestrants can help lower cholesterol levels. However, doctors may recommend trying lifestyle approaches first or as well. These include following a balanced diet and getting regular physical activity.
  • Medications for FH: Doctors recommend some medications more frequently to treat FH. These include ezetimibe (Zetia), lomitapide (Juxtapid, Lojuxta), and PCSK9 inhibitors.
  • Following a heart-healthy diet: Your doctor or a registered dietitian can recommend a balanced, heart-healthy diet. Many experts recommend following the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.
  • Getting regular physical activity: Regular physical activity can help decrease LDL and raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL). HDL, or “good” cholesterol, can help lower LDL levels. Talk with your doctor about what level of physical activity may help you.
  • Quitting smoking and avoiding exposure: Smoking, vaping, and exposure to smoke can lower Trusted Source American Heart Association Highly respected national organization Go to source HDL. Quitting smoking may increase HDL and decrease LDL levels.
  • Limiting alcohol: Limiting alcohol intake can support the liver in removing LDL cholesterol from the body. Experts recommend drinking alcohol in low to moderate quantities Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Governmental authority Go to source at most.
  • Managing stress: Research suggests that chronic stress levels sometimes raise LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol. Counseling and psychotherapy, meditation, and physical activity can help lower stress.
  • Getting regular checkups: Have regular checkups with your doctor to monitor your cholesterol levels and adjust your treatment plan if necessary. Regular checkups also help your medical team spot potential complications early, which may help improve your outlook.

For the best outcome, continue healthy lifestyle approaches even when taking medication and after cholesterol has started to lower.

Read more about how to treat high cholesterol and familial hypercholesterolemia (FH).

Summary

How long you can live with high cholesterol depends on underlying health, whether you develop further cardiovascular disease, and access to treatment.

Ways to help improve outlook with high cholesterol include:

  • discussing medications with your doctor and following their advice
  • following a DASH diet
  • getting regular physical activity
  • getting regular checkups
  • quitting smoking or vaping and avoiding smoke
  • limiting alcohol

Talk with your doctor for personalized advice if you have questions about high cholesterol or its outlook.

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Medical Reviewer: Avi Varma, MD, MPH, AAHIVS, FAAFP
Last Review Date: 2024 Jan 26
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.