High cholesterol risk factors: What you can control

Too much low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad," cholesterol is a serious problem that can lead to heart disease. LDL cholesterol is the main source of cholesterol buildup and blockage in the arteries. On the other hand, high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good," cholesterol helps prevent cholesterol from building up in the arteries.

There are some risk factors for high cholesterol you can't control. These include:

  • Age. As you get older, cholesterol levels tend to rise.
  • Sex. Women have lower total cholesterol before menopause. After menopause, women's cholesterol levels tend to rise.
  • Family history. High blood cholesterol can run in families.

The good news is that by changing your lifestyle, you can control some of the risk factors for high cholesterol.

Risk factors you can control

It's important to maintain a healthy lifestyle regardless of your age, sex and family history. By paying attention to risk factors you can control, you can lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Factors you can control include:

  • Diet. Saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol in foods you eat can cause your blood cholesterol to rise. Plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables and nuts, can help lower bad cholesterol.
  • Weight. Being overweight tends to increase cholesterol.
  • Exercise. Being physically active can lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol.
  • Tobacco smoke. Smoking can lower good cholesterol.
Apr. 01, 2014 See more In-depth