7 Health Factors that Can Cause High Cholesterol

Many people struggle with high cholesterol. Before you identify what may be causing your high cholesterol levels, it's important to understand what cholesterol is. There are two main types of cholesterol. LDL, or, "bad" cholesterol is a substance that tends to clog and harden your arteries. HDL, or, "good" cholesterol carries LDL away from the arteries and into your liver to be eliminated. Here are seven factors that may be responsible for your high cholesterol levels.

1. Diet

Eating foods with too much saturated fat, like beef, pork, milk, eggs, butter and cheese can lead to high cholesterol. Most cookies, crackers and chips also contain excess amounts of saturated fat. To improve your cholesterol, reduce your saturated fat intake, eliminate trans fats, eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, walnuts, flax seeds), increase fiber (oatmeal, kidney beans, apples), and add whey protein.

2. Weight

Being overweight contributes to high cholesterol. If you drink sugary beverages, switch to water. Instead of snacking on sugary treats, try eating nuts or fruit. 

3. Activity Level

Lack of physical activity may increase LDL and decrease HDL. Look for ways to incorporate more activity into your daily routine, like using the stairs instead of taking the elevator, or parking further from your office. Take walks during breaks at work, and increase your standing activities, such as cooking or doing yard work.

4. Age and Gender

After you reach age 20, your cholesterol levels naturally begin to rise. In men, cholesterol levels generally level off after age 50. In women, cholesterol levels stay fairly low until menopause, at which point they start to rise to the same level as in men.

5. Overall Health

Certain diseases, such as diabetes or hypothyroidism may cause high cholesterol.

6. Family History

If family members have high cholesterol, you may have it too.

7. Smoking

Smoking cigarettes increases LDL. Quitting smoking can greatly improve your HDL cholesterol level. 

If lifestyle changes aren't enough to lower cholesterol, ask your doctor about cholesterol medication. Combined with lifestyle changes, medication can help lower your cholesterol.