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Cholesterol

Explore the myths surrounding this popular health topic and learn how to restore and maintain healthy cholesterol.

Know the Risk Factors for High Cholesterol

In some cases, high cholesterol is genetically inherited, but for others, lifestyle choices can be made to prevent or treat high cholesterol. Learn about the risk factors for high cholesterol to minimize their impact on your cholesterol levels, your health, and your future.

Know the Risk Factors for High Cholesterol


Unlike other common ailments that present themselves in observable aches and pains, high cholesterol is often a silent killer. Cholesterol naturally occurs in fats in the blood and serves a vital role in enabling your body to build healthy cells. However, abnormally high cholesterol levels can cause fatty deposits to develop in your bloodstream that can hinder blood flow and increase your risk of a stroke, heart attack, and even early mortality. In some cases, high cholesterol is genetically inherited, but for others, lifestyle choices can be made to prevent or treat high cholesterol. Learn about the risk factors for high cholesterol to minimize their impact on your cholesterol levels, your health, and your future.

Smoking

Smoking is one of the leading risk factors for high cholesterol because of the damaging effect that cigarette smoke has on the walls of blood vessels. Damaged blood vessel walls are more likely to accumulate fatty deposits that can lead to restricted blood flow. Another often unknown and unintended consequence of smoking is that it can reduce your HDL, or "good" cholesterol. A study conducted by the University of Wisconsin, Madison found that individuals who stopped smoking experienced a rise of about 5%, or 2.4 mg/dL, in their HDL cholesterol.

High Waist Circumference

Although many dieters' aspirations for a smaller waistline are driven by a desire to improve their appearance, evidence suggests that the reasons to shrink your waistline extend beyond the cosmetic. The risk of high cholesterol increases in men whose waistline circumference is at least 40 inches and in women whose waistline circumference is at least 35 inches. The so-called "spare tire" is no longer a joke to balk at, as a study published in the European Heart Journal found that central or midsection obesity alone can predict heart disease.

Obesity

Having a body mass index (BMI) or 30 or higher is an additional risk factor for high cholesterol. According to the National Institutes of Health, a BMI that falls between 18.5 and 24.9 is regarded as normal. Obesity is often accompanied by higher than recommended levels of cholesterol and triglyceride levels, both of which hint at how much fat is circulating in your blood. You don't need to lose a significant amount of weight to improve your cholesterol levels. A loss of as little as 5 to 10% of total body weight has been shown to improve total cholesterol and the LDL:HDL ratio.

Diabetes

Individuals with diabetes are more prone to high cholesterol levels, according to the American Heart Association. Diabetes not only decreases good cholesterol but can increase bad cholesterol and triglyceride levels, a condition commonly referred to as diabetic dyslipidemia. The causes of diabetic dyslipidemia include defective insulin action or hyperglycemia—excess blood glucose. High blood sugar is not simply detrimental to your cholesterol; it can also damage the lining of the arteries, which can give rise to the accumulation of arterial plaque.

Poor Diet

Although the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee indicated that dietary cholesterol has a less substantial impact on cholesterol levels than previously held, the Mayo Clinic maintains that high-fiber, low-calorie foods like fruits and vegetables can help lower serum cholesterol levels. In addition, a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that diets low in saturated fats and cholesterol can serve to reduce the levels of unstable, oxidized LDL cholesterol in the blood.

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