Unhealthy cholesterol levels are linked to having a poor diet, lack of exercise,
being overweight, age, heredity, and other factors.
The unhealthy foods most likely to raise your LDL cholesterol are those that
contain saturated fat and trans-fatty acids.
- Saturated fats are found in animal products -- such as beef, lamb, pork,
butter, cream, ice cream, whole milk, cheeses, egg yolks, and foods made
with these products.
- Trans-fatty acids are found in fried foods, commercially baked goods (donuts,
cookies, crackers), processed foods, and margarines. Read more about margarine
Lack of exercise
Lack of physical activity can lead to high LDL cholesterol. On the other hand,
regular exercise can increase good cholesterol, lower bad cholesterol, decrease
your risk for heart disease, and improve your overall health.
Overweight people often don't have enough HDL (good) cholesterol, and their
triglycerides are often too high. Their LDL (bad) cholesterol may be too high
as well. Furthermore, obesity increases the risk for high blood pressure and
type 2 diabetes, which are associated with heart disease.
Cholesterol levels tend to rise in both men and women as they get older. This
is very important because heart disease is the number one cause of death for
both men AND women:
- Men -- on average, men develop cardiovascular disease 10 - 15 years
earlier than women. Men have an increased risk of dying from heart disease
at a younger age than women.
- Women -- following menopause, cholesterol levels rise significantly.
More specifically, LDL (bad) cholesterol increases and HDL (good) cholesterol
decreases at this phase in a woman's life, putting her at increased the risk
for heart disease.
Genetics play an important role in determining your blood cholesterol level.
Children and teens should have their cholesterol checked if family members
have had either early heart disease or total cholesterol levels greater than
240 mg/dL. Early heart disease is defined as a father, brother, uncle, or grandfather
who developed heart disease before age 55, or a mother, sister, aunt, or grandmother
before age 65.
Other causes of high cholesterol
- Type 2 diabetes
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Some medications (progestins, steroids)
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
Review Date: 10/31/2006
Reviewed By: Alan Greene, M.D., F.A.A.P., Department of Pediatrics, Packard Children's Hospital, Stanford University School of Medicine; Chief Medical Officer, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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