Accessible Search Form           Advanced Search

  • PRINT PAGE  |  PRINT ENTIRE TOPIC  |  SHARE

What Causes High Blood Cholesterol?

Many factors can affect the cholesterol levels in your blood. You can control some factors, but not others.

Factors You Can Control

Diet

Cholesterol is found in foods that come from animal sources, such as egg yolks, meat, and cheese. Some foods have fats that raise your cholesterol level.

For example, saturated fat raises your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol level more than anything else in your diet. Saturated fat is found in some meats, dairy products, chocolate, baked goods, and deep-fried and processed foods.

Trans fatty acids (trans fats) raise your LDL cholesterol and lower your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. Trans fats are made when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to harden it. Trans fats are found in some fried and processed foods.

Limiting foods with cholesterol, saturated fat, and trans fats can help you control your cholesterol levels.

Physical Activity and Weight

Lack of physical activity can lead to weight gain. Being overweight tends to raise your LDL level, lower your HDL level, and increase your total cholesterol level. (Total cholesterol is a measure of the total amount of cholesterol in your blood, including LDL and HDL.)

Routine physical activity can help you lose weight and lower your LDL cholesterol. Being physically active also can help you raise your HDL cholesterol level.

Factors You Can’t Control

Heredity

High blood cholesterol can run in families. An inherited condition called familial hypercholesterolemia causes very high LDL cholesterol. (“Inherited” means the condition is passed from parents to children through genes.) This condition begins at birth, and it may cause a heart attack at an early age.

Age and Sex

Starting at puberty, men often have lower levels of HDL cholesterol than women. As women and men age, their LDL cholesterol levels often rise. Before age 55, women usually have lower LDL cholesterol levels than men. However, after age 55, women can have higher LDL levels than men.

Rate This Content:

  
previous topic next topic

Featured Video


The NHLBI "Grand Opportunity" Exome Sequencing Project

High Blood Cholesterol Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. To find clinical trials that are currently underway for High Blood Cholesterol, visit www.clinicaltrials.gov.


The Heart Truth Logo

The Heart Truth®—a national heart disease awareness campaign for women—is sponsored by the NHLBI. The campaign's goal is to give women a personal and urgent wakeup call about their risk for heart disease. 

Every woman has a story to tell and the power to take action to protect her heart health. Share your story with other women on Facebook.

The Heart Truth campaign offers a variety of public health resources to help educate women and health professionals about women’s heart disease. 

Learn more about key campaign events, activities, and resources at www.hearttruth.gov.

 
September 19, 2012 Last Updated Icon

The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.