What Causes High Cholesterol? 7 Key Factors
What causes high cholesterol? There is no one cause—several factors work together to compose your overall risk. This includes everything from family history to diet to lack of exercise.
To maintain healthy cholesterol levels, it’s important to understand not only what is considered high cholesterol, but also to comprehend how all these factors work together to create a picture into your overall health.
We’ll take a closer look at some of these factors, the difference between good and bad cholesterol, and examine what foods cause high cholesterol.
What Causes High Cholesterol? Seven Important Factors
As we mentioned earlier, your cholesterol level is affected by several things, some of which are within your control, and others—such as genetics—that aren’t.
Following are seven important factors that can cause high cholesterol:
Exercise increases your body’s level of “good” cholesterol. (We’ll talk more about the differences between good and bad cholesterol later in this article.) The good cholesterol essentially helps eliminate the bad cholesterol from your system.
2. Smoking and alcohol use
Smoking decreases the amount of good cholesterol, while drinking too much alcohol can also contribute to a higher cholesterol level.
3. Being overweight or obese
If you have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater, you are considered obese, which puts you at greater risk of developing high cholesterol.
Anyone, at any age, can have high cholesterol. However, as you age, your liver becomes less efficient at removing the bad cholesterol from your system. This is why high cholesterol is more common in those over age 40.
5. An unhealthy diet: What foods cause high cholesterol?
Saturated and trans fats contribute to high cholesterol. You can find saturated fats in dairy products or fatty cuts of meat. Trans fats are frequently seen in packaged foods—especially snacks and desserts.
Other foods that can raise your cholesterol include:
- Red meat and processed meat such as hot dogs
- Full-fat dairy products
- Fried foods
- Sweets such as cakes and donuts
6. Family history of high cholesterol
There is a definite genetic component to high cholesterol—for some people, it’s more difficult for their bodies to remove cholesterol. We frequently work with patients who have a family history of high cholesterol, and we can tailor a plan to help them.
7. Certain medical conditions
Those with the following conditions can have unhealthy cholesterol levels:
What Are the Symptoms of High Cholesterol?
Actually, high cholesterol has no symptoms. The only way to determine if you have it is to have a blood test called a lipid profile to measure the amount of good and bad cholesterol in your blood. This is why we believe that annual wellness exams are a vital part of keeping you healthy.
Because high cholesterol puts you at greater risk for heart disease and stroke, we recommend having a physical at least once a year, and perhaps more often depending upon your family history or risk factors.
What Is the Difference Between Good and Bad Cholesterol?
First, let’s examine the bad cholesterol, or LDL. This type of cholesterol causes fat to build up in your arteries, a condition called atherosclerosis. The result is a narrowing of the artery that makes it more difficult for blood to flow, placing you at risk for heart attacks, peripheral artery disease and strokes.
The good cholesterol, known as HDL, works closely with your liver. You could think of the good cholesterol as “sweeping” out around one-third of your bad cholesterol out of your system to the liver. In turn, the liver breaks it down in order for it to be removed from the body.
What Is Considered High Cholesterol?
There are three important numbers you must know when calculating your cholesterol levels.
First is the LDL, the bad cholesterol. Second, is the HDL, the good cholesterol. Third is a number that is the combination of both the LDL and HDL.
Often, when measuring your cholesterol, we also examine your triglycerides, the amount of fat in your blood. Like cholesterol, this can raise your risk of heart disease.
Your cholesterol is considered high when your total cholesterol is more than 200. Your good cholesterol should be more than 40 for men and 50 for women. It’s most desirable for good cholesterol to be more than 60.
Your level of triglycerides should be below 150.
Cary Medical Group Provides Treatment for High Cholesterol
As internal medicine physicians in Cary, we focus on how all the systems in the body work together to form a picture of your overall health. Your cholesterol levels are an important facet of this image, and by identifying high cholesterol early, we can effectively treat them, lowering your risk for developing heart disease or having a stroke.
Because high cholesterol has no symptoms, it’s important to have a yearly physical so we can monitor your lipid levels. Scheduling a wellness exam with us is simple—just contact us. We would love to be your medical home.
For more than 25 years, Cary Medical Group has served as the Triangle area’s premier internal medicine provider. We tailor our treatments to provide the finest personalized health care available for each stage of your adult life. Contact us to schedule an appointment.