What risk factors might affect my cholesterol level?

Following are risk factors that might affect your cholesterol:
  • obesity
  • smoking
  • excessive drinking
  • having type 2 diabetes

A number of factors influence a person's cholesterol levels:


Two dietary factors are associated with increases in blood cholesterol levels:

  • Eating foods high in saturated fats, even if those fats do not contain cholesterol.
  • Eating foods containing high levels of cholesterol. (This includes eggs and red meat, lard and even shrimp.)

It is important to note that only foods of animal origin have cholesterol. Sometimes this can lead to confusing labels at grocery stores. An item that is high in saturated fat from plant sources might have a label claiming it is 100 percent cholesterol free. This may be true, but that does not necessarily mean it is beneficial to your health.


Cholesterol levels tend to increase as we age. Doctors consider this when determining treatment options for patients with certain cholesterol levels.


Men tend to have higher bad cholesterol levels and lower good cholesterol levels than women, especially before age 50. In women older than 50, in the post-menopausal years, the decreasing amounts of estrogen are thought to cause the bad cholesterol level to rise.


Anyone overweight is more likely to have high cholesterol levels. The good cholesterol levels also tend to be lower. Interestingly, a greater risk of increased cholesterol levels occurs when the extra weight is centered in the middle region of the body, as opposed to the legs or buttocks.


Some people are genetically predisposed to high cholesterol levels. Many minor genetic defects can lead to excessive production of bad cholesterol or a decreased capacity for its removal. If your parents have high cholesterol, you should be tested to see if your cholesterol levels are likewise high.


Diseases such as diabetes can lower good cholesterol levels, increase triglycerides and accelerate the development of plaques that can build up in the blood vessels. High blood pressure can also hasten the development of plaques - and some medications used to treat it can increase bad cholesterol and decrease good cholesterol.


High stress or cigarette smoking also can affect cholesterol levels. Exercise, on the other hand, can increase good cholesterol and decrease bad cholesterol.

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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.