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Which Risk Factors for High Cholesterol Cannot Be Controlled?

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Updated September 15, 2013

Question: Which Risk Factors for High Cholesterol Cannot Be Controlled?
Answer:

You follow your low-fat diet closely. You exercise regularly. You even gave up smoking. But when you went to your healthcare provider to get your cholesterol checked, your cholesterol levels were high.

What gives?

There are a variety of factors that can place us at risk of having high cholesterol levels. While many of these risk factors are within your control, there are a few of them you can’t do anything about -- no matter how hard you try.

Even though you cannot control some of these risk factors for high cholesterol, it is still important to be familiar with them. Knowing what these risk factors are can make you more vigilant when it comes to monitoring your cholesterol levels.

The following are risk factors for high cholesterol that you cannot modify:

Your Age

The older you get, the higher your risk is for having high cholesterol. High cholesterol, especially high LDL levels, can lead to atherosclerosis. And, as the cholesterol continues to deposit on the arterial wall to form a plaque, it can obstruct blood flow to important areas of the body -- including the heart. According to the guidelines set forth by the National Cholesterol Education Program, men that are 45 years old or older and women 55 years old or older are at an increased risk for having high cholesterol.

Your Gender

Coronary heart disease risk begins to rise when men are in their forties. This is thought to be due to elevations in LDL cholesterol around this time. Women are relatively safe until they hit menopause, when LDL levels go up. High LDL levels being present could also increase your risk for heart disease.

Your Family History

Do have a parent who has high cholesterol? Do you have parent or sibling in your family who had suffered from a heart attack early in life (younger than 65 years of age in women, or younger than 55 years of age in men)? If so, you’re at risk for having high cholesterol and heart disease, too. Genes alone can up your risk.

Sources:

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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