Beyond Diet: Other Factors Upping Your Cholesterol
When it comes to heart-healthy eating, you might be doing everything by the book—but your cholesterol numbers tell a different story.
What gives? The answer may lie in factors beyond the fork.
Cholesterol isn’t entirely bad. In fact, your body needs some of this waxy substance to make things like hormones and vitamin D. The trouble starts when you have too much low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad,” cholesterol, which causes a substance called plaque to collect in your blood vessels. This buildup puts you at risk for heart attack and stroke.
High cholesterol culprits
While your diet has a major impact on your cholesterol levels, there are other influences at play. See whether any of these rings true for you.
● It’s in the family: If you have family members with high cholesterol, you’re more prone to unhealthy levels. Your genetics may make it harder for your body to remove LDL cholesterol from your blood or break it down in your liver.
● More than a number: Your body’s metabolism changes with age. While normal, these changes make it more difficult for your liver to get rid of LDL cholesterol. This helps explain why high cholesterol is often diagnosed between ages 40 and 59.
● Battle of the sexes: Women have a lower risk for high cholesterol than men—until menopause. This is because menopause lowers hormones that may protect against high cholesterol.
● Chair affairs: Sitting a lot and not getting a lot of exercise lowers high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. This “good” cholesterol carries LDL cholesterol away from arteries. With less HDL, it’s easier for LDL to build up in your blood vessels.
● Up in smoke: Smoking damages your blood vessels and causes them to harden faster—a surefire way to raise your risk for heart disease.
● Medicine cabinet checkup: Some prescriptions, such as steroids used to treat inflammatory diseases, can unintentionally cause unhealthy cholesterol levels.
The next step
If you’re still struggling to keep cholesterol numbers in check, it’s time to turn to the pros. Discuss strategies with your health care provider. Common steps include losing weight and taking medication. But your provider will know how to personalize the approach.
Remember: Managing cholesterol is key for a happy and healthy ticker.