High Cholesterol Risk Factors
Should You Be Concerned?
What do you need to know to about your risk of developing high cholesterol? While hyperlipidemia runs in some families, still there are choices you can make every day to favorably influence your blood cholesterol, and ultimately, your heart health.
Yes—your lifestyle has quite a bit to do with your serum cholesterol levels. Run through this checklist of high cholesterol risk factors to see if you should be concerned.
7 High Cholesterol Risk Factors
- Body weight: If your body mass index (BMI) is greater than 30%, then it's highly likely that you are at increased risk of developing high cholesterol, as well as cardiovascular heart disease.
- Physical activity: As I'm sure you know, the more you sit, the greater your risks. A lack of physical activity causes many health-related issues, of course. Since exercise helps increase the high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol that is heart-protective, and help to lower low density lipoproteins (LDL), which is one type of blood cholesterol that increases your heart disease risk, increases your activity—even walking 20-30 minutes a day can make a big difference to your serum cholesterol levels and to your risk of heart disease.
- Diet: Food choices can improve your blood cholesterol or cause harmful plague to develop. Heart healthy diet is one that is high in dietary fiber and heart healthy fats. The type of foods that give you the important dietary fiber includes vegetables, beans and legumes, fruit, and whole grains. Just as important is the need to avoid, or better yet, eliminate highly processed food products such as baked goods, breads, cereals, pizza crust, and pasta made white flour since these foods cause a rise in triglycerides, another type of blood cholesterol that is directly related to heart disease. The 2nd category that affects your heart health risk is saturated fats. The types of artery-clogging foods to skip include red meat, butter, and baked/prepared foods containing trans fats or lard.. While it is very good news that trans fats are no longer permitted to use in processed foods, Beth Kitchen, PhD, RDN, an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition Sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham that If you are wondering about eggs and dairy products, you may be surprised to learn that recent research confirmed that foods containing cholesterol like the yoke of an egg, and the fat from yogurt do not raise your LDL cholesterol so they can remain in your diet.
Since the FDA ban on the use of transfats is now mandated, the concern must turn to what ingredients will the food industry use to replace trans fats to help keep products shelf-stable and creamy?
- Smoking: Smoke damages your blood vessels, and damaged blood vessels are more prone to accumulating fatty deposits—thereby narrowing the blood vessels and potentially causing cardiovascular issues. Also, it’s thought that smoking lowers your HDL cholesterol levels (the good cholesterol).
- High Blood Pressure: This also goes along with heart health. High blood pressure can damage the walls of your blood vessels, making them more likely to accumulate those fatty deposits that can lead to cardiovascular problems.
- Type 2 Diabetes: Routinely high blood glucose levels damage your blood vessels, and as you saw in the smoking and high blood pressure risk factors, damaged blood vessels are more likely to develop plaque—the fatty deposits. Also, type 2 diabetes raises your LDL cholesterol levels (the bad cholesterol) and lowers your HDL cholesterol levels (the good cholesterol).
Family History of Heart Problems: If one of your parents or if a sibling developed heart disease early (before age 551), then you’re more likely to develop high cholesterol leading to heart disease.
You Can Control Some High Cholesterol Risk Factors
As you can see in the list above, there are some risk factors in your control when it comes to developing high cholesterol. Watching what you eat and what you weigh are both factors that are in your hands, as is the amount of exercise that you get.
Take charge of those “lifestyle” risk factors and work hard to protect your heart—this goes without saying, but it’s well worth it.
If you have any of the high cholesterol risk factors listed, talk to your doctor about what you can do to better protect your heart. Especially if you have type 2 diabetes and a family history of heart disease, you will want to work hard to control your cholesterol.
- High Cholesterol: Risk Factors. Mayo Clinic Web site. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/high-blood-cholesterol/DS00178/DSECTION=risk-factors. Updated June 1, 2011. Accessed September 1, 2011.
- High Blood Cholesterol: What You Need to Know. National Institutes of Health National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Web site. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/chol/wyntk.htm#risk. Updated June 2005. Accessed September 1, 2011.