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How does genetics affect cholesterol levels?

Genetics affects cholesterol levels to a small degree for most people. The most direct effect of genetics on cholesterol levels is in people who have rare genetic disorders of cholesterol metabolism. In these people the effect is very direct. However, other things like exercise and diet are equally important to cholesterol levels for most people.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Despite all the buzz about cholesterol-free foods, cholesterol is one factor that is largely determined by your genetics, weight, activity level, and diet. Genetics determine whether or not you will have a tendency towards high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels, and genetics largely determine your LDL-to-HDL ratio. Therefore, genetic factors greatly determine how seriously you will be affected by arterial aging due to elevated LDL cholesterol levels if you don't adopt age reduction activities specifically targeted towards preventing arterial aging. For example, if you are a man with a high LDL cholesterol level or a high LDL-to-HDL ratio and a number of your closely related male relatives have died early from heart disease, you are at high risk of the premature onset of cardiovascular disease. That means an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, memory loss, vascular disease of the legs, or kidneys, impotence, and wrinkling of the skin. The great news from science in the last two and a half decades is that you can control that disease. Weight loss is absolutely key to getting your cholesterol and triglyceride levels into normal ranges. That's one of the real benefits of the Atkins diet for those who can stick with it and lose weight. If they lose weight, the dieters normalize their lipid and triglyceride levels. However, to make it a really healthy diet, you should switch from saturated and trans fats to monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.