You're more likely to have high cholesterol that can lead to heart disease if you have any of these risk factors:

  • Smoking. Cigarette smoking damages the walls of your blood vessels, making them likely to accumulate fatty deposits. Smoking may also lower your level of HDL, or "good," cholesterol.
  • Obesity. Having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater puts you at risk of high cholesterol.
  • Poor diet. Foods that are high in cholesterol, such as red meat and full-fat dairy products, will increase your total cholesterol. Eating saturated fat, found in animal products, and trans fats, found in some commercially baked cookies and crackers, also can raise your cholesterol level.
  • Lack of exercise. Exercise helps boost your body's HDL "good" cholesterol while lowering your LDL "bad" cholesterol. Not getting enough exercise puts you at risk of high cholesterol.
  • High blood pressure. Increased pressure on your artery walls damages your arteries, which can speed the accumulation of fatty deposits.
  • Diabetes. High blood sugar contributes to higher LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol. High blood sugar also damages the lining of your arteries.
  • Family history of heart disease. If a parent or sibling developed heart disease before age 55, high cholesterol levels place you at a greater than average risk of developing heart disease.
Feb. 12, 2013