Your body manufactures some cholesterol and gets the rest from food.
Your genes play a role in how much your body makes on its own. The rest is
determined by what kind of lifestyle you lead. The following factors can
contribute to high cholesterol.
What you eat plays a significant role in your cholesterol levels. Eating
foods with trans fat or high levels of saturated fat can increase “bad” LDL
cholesterol. Foods high in saturated fat include red meat, dairy products,
chocolate, and processed foods made with cocoa butter, palm oil, or coconut
oil. High levels of dietary cholesterol, found only in foods made from animal
sources such as meat and dairy, can also raise your bad cholesterol level.
Eating too many calories, in general, can elevate triglycerides.
Being overweight or obese increases your risk of having high
cholesterol. People with a high body mass index (BMI) tend to have lower levels
of “good” HDL and higher levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides than
people of normal weight. One study found that for every kilogram (2.2 pounds) of
weight a person loses, they may be able to raise their HDL by .35 mg/dL. A BMI
of 25 to 29 is considered overweight. A BMI of 30 or above is considered obese.
Cigarette smoking damages your arterial walls, making them more
susceptible to plaque buildup. It may also lower your protective HDL
cholesterol. Research shows that quitting increases a person’s HDL by an
average of 4 mg/dL.
Not being physically active can contribute to high cholesterol. Getting
regular exercise—30 minutes of moderate intensity activity most days of the
week—can help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol.
High cholesterol can run in families. Although that is often due to
shared eating habits, sometimes it can also be genetic. The inherited type of
high cholesterol affects one in 500 people. The
younger you are when high cholesterol strikes, the more likely it is due to
genetic factors, especially if you are of a normal weight and you eat
healthfully. In these cases, a genetic abnormality leads to the overproduction
of cholesterol in the liver.