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What Places You At Risk For Having High Cholesterol?

Addressing High Cholesterol Risk Factors Can Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease


Updated December 20, 2012

Out of all of the risk factors for heart disease, high cholesterol risk factors are probably one of the easier ones to modify. High cholesterol levels, especially if left undiagnosed, can deposit on the walls of your arteries through a process called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis forms a waxy plaque on the walls of arteries and can limit blood flow to vital organs and tissues. Many factors can place you at risk for high cholesterol. Although most of these factors can be modified through changing your lifestyle, some risk factors cannot be changed.

The following circumstances are risk factors associated with high cholesterol levels:

  • Poor Diet – A diet high in saturated fat, cholesterol, and trans fats and low in fiber is a recipe for high cholesterol levels. If you want to keep your cholesterol levels low, be sure to eat foods that are low in fat and high in soluble fiber. Examples of foods to include in your diet include vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, since these foods are high in fiber and other nutrients needed by your body. Some foods you may want to avoid include chips, pastries, cookies, and other sweets. These generally contain foods that are high in saturated fats, which can raise your cholesterol levels.
  • Sedentary Lifestyle – Sitting in front of the television or computer scores no points when it comes to keeping your cholesterol low. Exercise -– whether it is aerobic or low impact –- is the key in lowering your risk of having high cholesterol.
  • Age – Your age also matters when it comes to your risk of having high cholesterol levels. The older you get, your risk of having high cholesterol increases.
  • Smoking – If you are smoking, quit now. This can lower your good cholesterol levels (HDL) and raise your total cholesterol levels.
  • Your Family Tree – High cholesterol levels can be inherited, too. Knowing your family history can also give you a good idea of whether or not you are at risk of having high cholesterol levels. Do you have a mother, a father, or a sibling with high cholesterol levels? Have you had a male first-degree relative under 45 years of age, or a female first-degree relative under 55 years of age, diagnosed with coronary heart disease? If so, you could be at risk of having high cholesterol levels.
  • Your Gender – Being male or female can also make a difference in your risk of having high cholesterol levels. Hormone levels can also influence your cholesterol levels. For instance, females are at highest risk of high cholesterol levels during pregnancy and after menopause due to fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone.
  • Disease Management – Certain diseases could also place you at risk of having high cholesterol levels. These conditions include diabetes and certain thyroid conditions. By managing these conditions, you could also help lower your cholesterol levels.


Third Report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (PDF), July 2004, The National Institutes of Heath: The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

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