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Symptoms & Risk Factors for High Cholesterol


What Causes High Cholesterol?

“You are what you eat.” That’s not quite accurate. Actually, you’re only 25% of what you eat.

Cholesterol only comes from 2 places:

  • Your body: your liver and other cells in your body produce approximately 75% of your cholesterol.
  • Foods you eat. the remaining 25% or so comes from your food. So in this case, you’re only 25% of what you eat.

Here are the facts on what causes cholesterol:

  • Your body naturally produces LDL cholesterol.
  • People also inherit genes that cause their body to make too much LDL cholesterol.
  • Eating saturated fat, trans fats and dietary cholesterol also increases the LDL cholesterol levels in your body.

If high blood cholesterol runs in your family, lifestyle modifications may not be enough to help lower your LDL blood cholesterol.¬†Everyone is different, so work with your doctor to find a treatment plan that’s best for you.

Risk Factors of High Cholesterol

What Affects Cholesterol Levels?

A variety of things can affect cholesterol levels. These are things you can do something about:

  • Diet. Saturated, or trans fat and cholesterol in the food you eat make your blood cholesterol level go up, especially your LDL bad cholesterol levels. Saturated fat is the main culprit, but cholesterol in foods also matters. Reducing the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet helps lower your blood cholesterol level.
  • Weight. Being overweight is a risk factor for heart disease. It also tends to increase your cholesterol. Losing weight can help lower your LDL and total cholesterol levels, as well as raise your HDL and lower your triglyceride levels.
  • Physical Activity. Not being physically active is a risk factor for heart disease. Regular physical activity can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels. It also helps you lose weight. You should try to be physically active for 30 minutes on most, if not all, days.
  • Smoking. Smoking accounts for about 440,000 deaths each year. More than 135,000 of those deaths are due to smoking related cardiovascular diseases. Smoking damages your blood vessel walls, making them more susceptible to fatty cholesterol deposits. Smoking may also lower your HDL “good” cholesterol levels.
  • High blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels caused by diabetes has been found to be a contributing factor to higher LDL cholesterol levels and lower HDL cholesterol levels. High blood sugar additionally damages the lining of your arteries, making them more susceptible to fatty cholesterol deposits.
  • High Blood Pressure. High blood pressure is an increased pressure on your artery walls which may damage them, making them more susceptible to fatty cholesterol deposits.
  • Alcohol Consumption

Things you cannot do anything about also can affect cholesterol levels. These include:

  • Age and Gender. As women and men get older, their cholesterol levels rise. Before the age of menopause, women have lower total cholesterol levels than men of the same age. After the age of menopause, women’s LDL levels tend to rise.
  • Heredity. Your genes partly determine how much cholesterol your body makes. High blood cholesterol can run in families.

Calculate Your Heart Disease Risk

What is Your Risk of Developing Heart Disease or of Having a Heart Attack?

In general, the higher your LDL level and the more risk factors you have (other than LDL), the greater your chances of developing heart disease or having a heart attack. Some people are at high risk for a heart attack because they already have heart disease. Other people are at high risk for developing heart disease because they have diabetes (which is a strong risk factor) or a combination of risk factors for heart disease.

Follow these 3 easy steps to know your risk for developing heart disease:

Step 1: Check the table below to see how many of the listed risk factors you have; these are the risk factors that affect your LDL goal.

Major Risk Factors That Affect Your LDL Goal

  • Cigarette smoking
  • High blood pressure (140/90 mmHg or higher or on blood pressure medication)
  • Low HDL cholesterol (less than 40 mg/dL)*
  • Family history of early heart disease (heart disease in father or brother before age 55; heart disease in mother or sister before age 65)
  • Your Age (men 45 years or older; women 55 years or older)

* If your HDL cholesterol is 60 mg/dL or higher, subtract 1 from your total count.

Even though obesity and physical inactivity are not counted in this list, they are conditions that need to be corrected.

Step 2: How many major risk factors do you have? If you have 2 or more risk factors in the table above, use these risk scoring tables (which include your cholesterol levels) to find your risk score. Risk score refers to the chance of having a heart attack in the next 10 years, given as a percentage. My risk score is ________%.

Step 3: Use your medical history, number of risk factors, and risk score to find your risk of developing heart disease or having a heart attack in the table below.

If You Have You Are in Category
Heart disease, diabetes, or risk score more than 20%* I. High Risk
2 or more risk factors and risk score 10-20% II. Next Highest Risk
2 or more risk factors and risk score less than 10% III. Moderate Risk
0 or 1 risk factor IV. Low-to-Moderate Risk

* Means that more than 20 of 100 people in this category will have a heart attack within 10 years.

My risk category is _______________.

The higher your risk category, the more important it is to lower your LDL and control any other heart disease risk factors (including smoking and high blood pressure) you have. Further, the higher your risk category, the more you’ll benefit from taking action. But whatever your risk category, you will use the TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes) approach as a basic part of your treatment.

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Content Created/Medically Reviewed by our Expert Doctors


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