Causes of High LDL Cholesterol

Believe me, you don't want it, and I'm not talking about a second doughnut. People with high LDL (bad) cholesterol have about twice the risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. High LDL cholesterol affects about one in six American adults, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and contributes to other cardiovascular conditions and risk of stroke.

You may be doing everything right and still find you have a cholesterol level over 200 mg/dl, the average for adult Americans. Any age can have high cholesterol, but the 55 to 64 age group has the highest percentage. Women have almost twice the incidence than men in this age category.

Causes for high cholesterol

There are many causes for high LDL cholesterol. Some of them you can control through lifestyle changes, and some with medication.

  • Consuming too much fat - Any food containing saturated fat, including fatty meats, eggs and butter, will raise cholesterol. Trans fats, used in processed foods such as cookies and snack foods, also raises the levels of LDL in the blood.
  • Being overweight - As you become heavier, your triglycerides may go up and reduce your HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
  • Being inactive - Less physical activity can lower your HDL.
  • Not getting enough sleep - Eight hours is recommended each night. Sleep apnea and stress have both been linked to higher cholesterol levels.
  • Too much alcohol - People who consume too much alcohol tend to have higher levels of LDL and lower levels of HDL. It's best to drink in moderation.
  • Diseases - Some chronic diseases such as hypothyroidism, kidney and liver disease, and diabetes and high blood pressure can cause or contribute to high cholesterol.
  • Getting older - Unfortunately your cholesterol rises with your age.
  • Your gender - With menopause, women's LDL cholesterol rises. Women have slightly higher rates than men overall.
  • Your genes - High cholesterol sometimes runs in the family.
  • Your race - Whites have slightly higher cholesterol levels than Mexican Americans. African Americans are third.
  • Smoking - Smoking can lower your HDL cholesterol.
  • Taking certain types of medicines - beta-blockers and corticosteroids, among others, can raise triglycerides and lower good cholesterol.

Keeping high cholesterol at bay

While we can watch our diet, get regular exercise and stop smoking, there are some causes like age, gender and family history that are simply out of our hands. In those cases, medications called statins can help. Niacin, a B vitamin may be prescribed to lower cholesterol levels. Even aspirin therapy may help if you are at a high risk for heart attack or stroke. No medication, however, should be considered a substitute for lifestyle changes.

Keep in mind that there are a number of foods that can actually improve your cholesterol. Tuna, salmon, walnuts and almonds are all great foods and should be added to your plate of more vegetables.

Fortunately, awareness education about healthy cholesterol levels and new medications are contributing to a decline in the number of Americans with high cholesterol. The more you learn about high cholesterol, the healthier you will be.

Get tested regularly and make the necessary adjustments you need to keep your number low.

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