Understanding the Causes of High Cholesterol

73.5 million Americans are currently living with high cholesterol, and it’s important we understand that daily behaviors such as diet and physical activity can significantly affect our cholesterol levels. Understanding the impact these behaviors have on your levels can help you take the necessary steps to prevent high cholesterol and maintain control over your health.

What is cholesterol?                                  

According to the CDC, “Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that travels through the blood on proteins, called lipoproteins. When our cholesterol level is too high, it can build up on the walls of our blood vessels and eventually cause Angina, or a heart attack. High cholesterol can also cause high blood pressure, strokes and heart disease.

What causes high cholesterol?                                                                      

There are multiple factors that put people at risk for high cholesterol.

  • Heredity: If your family has a history of high cholesterol, you have an increased risk. This hereditary “baseline” can, however, be positively influenced by diet and exercise.
  • Age, Sex, Race, Ethnicity: Our risk for high cholesterol increases as we get older, and levels among women tend to rise more quickly than with men. The CDC chart below illustrates what percentage of men and women suffer from high cholesterol within specific racial or ethnic groups. As you can see from the varying percentages, ethnicity also plays an important role in determining our cholesterol levels.
  • Unhealthy Diet: Cholesterol is found in meals that contain fatty meats, butter, cheese and egg yolks. We put ourselves at risk when we excessively eat these types of foods and don’t incorporate a balanced diet into our lifestyle.
  • Physical Inactivity: Lack of daily exercise or physical activity can lead to obesity, which is known to increase our “bad” cholesterol levels.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes tends to cause higher “triglyceride levels,” which is another way of saying high cholesterol, but patients living with the condition can work with their doctor to control the risk factors.

There are no symptoms for high cholesterol, so it is very important to visit your doctor regularly to test your levels.

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