What are the high cholesterol risk factors?
Your blood cholesterol level is affected not only by what you eat but also by how quickly your body makes low-density lipoprotein ("bad") cholesterol and disposes of it. In fact, your body makes all the cholesterol it needs, and it is not necessary to take in any additional cholesterol from the foods you eat. If you have high cholesterol, the additional risk factors for developing heart disease include the following:
Increasing age: Being male greater than 45 years old or being female greater than 55 years old (or having premature menopause without estrogen replacement therapy) Heredity: A family history of premature heart disease (that is, having a father or other first-degree male relative who had a heart attack or died suddenly before the age of 55 years or having a mother or other first-degree female relative who had a heart attack or died suddenly before the age of 65 years)
Currently smoking cigarettes: Smokers' risk of heart attack is more than twice that of nonsmokers. Cigarette smoking is the biggest risk factor for sudden cardiac death: smokers have two to four times the risk of nonsmokers.
Alcohol: Alcohol intake increases HDL ("good") cholesterol but does not lower low-density lipoprotein ("bad") cholesterol. Doctors don't know for certain whether alcohol also reduces the risk of heart disease. Drinking too much alcohol can damage the liver and heart muscle, lead to high blood pressure, and raise triglycerides. Because of the risks, alcoholic beverages should not be used as a way to prevent heart disease.
Stress: Stress over the long term has been shown in several studies to raise blood cholesterol levels. One way that stress may do this is by affecting your habits. For example, when some people are under stress, they console themselves by eating fatty foods. The saturated fat and cholesterol in these foods contribute to higher levels of blood cholesterol.
High blood pressure: High blood pressure increases the heart's workload, causing the heart to enlarge and weaken over time.
Low high density lipoproteins cholesterol (<40mg/dl): High levels of HDL or "good cholesterol (> 60mg/dL) help to lower risk for heart disease.
Diabetes: Two-thirds of people with diabetes die of some form of heart or blood vessel disease. If you have diabetes, it's critically important for you to monitor and control any other risk factors you can.
Obesity/Overweight: People who have excess body fat are more likely to develop heart disease and stroke even if they have no other risk factors. Obesity is unhealthy because excess weight increases the strain on the heart.
High homocysteine levels: Homocysteine is an amino acid in the blood. Initial studies have found an association with high blood levels of homocysteine and an increased risk for heart disease. Homocysteine levels are strongly influenced by dietary intake of folic acid and B vitamins. Insuring adequate intake of these vitamins may help lower homocysteine levels.