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Healthy Living Blog

What Causes High Cholesterol?


what causes high cholesterolYour doctor sits you down to tell you that your cholesterol is too high and that a lifestyle change is needed if you want to stay healthy. While the prompt is good, you may be left knowing what you need to do, but not how you can do it. Here’s what causes high cholesterol and how a lifestyle change can benefit you.

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

You very likely know the difference between “good” cholesterol and “bad” cholesterol. Bad cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol or LDL, is mostly what you’re used to hearing. The good cholesterol is known as high-density lipoprotein (HDL).

For LDL, the lower level the better, as LDL cholesterol can collect in artery walls and lead to heart disease. A healthy number for most adults is less than 100 mg/dL.

You want your HDL number to be higher since it helps to move LDL out of your body. An HDL of 40 mg/dL or higher can help prevent buildup of LDL in arterial walls, which reduces your risk of heart disease.

“The Ugly” comes when you do not manage your cholesterol levels. LDL left unchecked can skyrocket, leading to plaque in arteries, blood clots, stroke and heart attack.

Saturated Fat

Some common breakfast foods also contain high levels of saturated fat. Foods like bacon, sausage and milk are all high in saturated fat, which can push your cholesterol through the roof. By swapping out your typical morning food for something more nutritious such as oatmeal, fruit or soy milk, you can begin to lower your cholesterol. Take a look at these tasty breakfast recipes to help cut cholesterol from your diet. HeartUK also suggests modifying your diet around certain foods.

Good items to add:

  • No-sugar-added baked beans
  • Barley Nuts (almonds, pistachios, walnuts, peanuts)
  • Fiber-rich vegetables
  • Soy
  • Red and green lentils

Good items to drop:

  • Butter
  • Hard margarines
  • Full-fat cheese
  • Coconut and palm oils

The foods that you should add to your diet can help lower your cholesterol naturally, while cutting foods high in saturated fat will help prevent high cholesterol altogether.

Obesity, Diabetes and Lack of Exercise

Weight, diabetes, and lack of exercise go hand-in-hand with high cholesterol and healthy living. As your weight goes up, your LDL cholesterol goes up and your HDL cholesterol goes down. By increasing your exercise, you can help lower your weight and LDL cholesterol. Exercising also naturally raises your good HDL cholesterol. Like obesity, diabetes can alter your production of HDL cholesterol, but your levels can be maintained with a good diet and exercise plan. If you are overweight and need help getting on an exercise plan, take look at this beginner workout plan.


If the lung damage wasn’t enough to make you stop smoking, cigarettes and tobacco also can lower your HDL cholesterol, causing more harmful LDL cholesterol to build up in your bloodstream. Smoking also can cause your blood vessels to thicken and narrow, leading to a buildup in plaque. If you are a smoker and are experiencing high LDL cholesterol, the first thing you should do is quit.


Your cholesterol may naturally change as you get older. Once you reach the age of 20 it is recommended that you visit a physician every five years to have your cholesterol checked. Men typically develop high cholesterol around the age of 40-45, while women experience a high risk around the time they start menopause. Aging is inevitable, but by taking some of the steps listed to lower your cholesterol, you can help maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Use these few tips to start on a path toward lower cholesterol. While some factors like age may be hard to control, a balanced diet and a good exercise plan will help you maintain a better cholesterol balance. If you believe you are experiencing high cholesterol levels, find a physician to schedule an appointment today.

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