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Diseases & Conditions

Are You at Risk for High Cholesterol

The known risk factors for high cholesterol that you cannot control include:

  • Gender — Before menopause, women usually have lower total cholesterol levels than men of the same age. As women and men age, their blood cholesterol levels rise until the age of about 60 to 65 years.
  • Age — Your risk increases if you are a man aged 45 years or older or a woman aged 55 years or older.
  • Heredity — Your genes influence how high your LDL (bad) cholesterol is by affecting how fast LDL is made and removed from the blood. One specific form of inherited high cholesterol that affects 1 in 500 people, called familial hypercholesterolemia, leads to early heart disease. Even if you do not have a specific genetic form of high cholesterol, genes play a role in influencing your LDL cholesterol level.

The factors for high cholesterol that you can control include:

  • Diet — The saturated fat and cholesterol in the food you eat raise total and LDL-cholesterol levels.
  • Weight — Being overweight can make your LDL-cholesterol level go up and your HDL level go down.
  • Physical activity/exercise — Increased physical activity helps to lower LDL- cholesterol and raise HDL-cholesterol levels. It also helps you lose weight.
  • Mental stress — Several studies have shown that stress raises blood cholesterol levels over the long term. One way that stress may do this is by affecting your habits. For example, when some people are under stress, they console themselves by eating fatty foods. The saturated fat and cholesterol in these foods contribute to higher levels of blood cholesterol.

© 1995-2009 The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. All rights reserved.

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 2/11/2009...#11919.

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