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Controllable Risk Factors for High Cholesterol

Controllable Risk Factors for High Cholesterol

Many of the factors that increase your risk of developing high cholesterol are controllable.

Diabetes: Diabetes often leads to high triglyceride levels, low HDL levels, and high LDL levels. But effective management of diabetes may help prevent these effects.

Diet: A diet high in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and calories can increase your total cholesterol level and lead to obesity. Too much saturated fat can stimulate the production of cholesterol in your body, which can increase production of LDL and increase your risk of coronary artery disease (CAD). Changing your diet may lower your cholesterol.

Lack of physical activity: Lack of exercise reduces HDL levels and increases obesity and insulin resistance in diabetes, adding to these risk factors for high cholesterol. By increasing your blood flow and promoting cardiovascular health, exercise benefits your entire circulatory system and may raise your HDL (good) cholesterol.

Being overweight: Having excess body weight is associated with decreased HDL levels and increased LDL levels. It also contributes to glucose intolerance and the development of diabetes. Losing weight to reach a healthy level may lower your cholesterol.

Smoking: Smoking increases your risk of CAD, and quitting can reduce the risk.

The following table summarizes how each risk factor affects high cholesterol through its effect on specific lipoproteins.

Controllable risk factors for high cholesterol

Risk factor

How does it affect your lipoprotein levels?

Diabetes
  • Decreases HDL ("good" cholesterol)
  • Increases triglycerides
High-fat diet
  • Increases LDL ("bad" cholesterol) and triglycerides
Lack of physical activity
  • Decreases HDL
Being overweight
  • May increase LDL and triglycerides
  • Decreases HDL
Smoking
  • Decreases HDL
By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - Cardiology
Specialist Medical Reviewer Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Last Revised June 29, 2012

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