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What Causes High Cholesterol?

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 4/19/2011

What causes high cholesterol? Here we will list and detail the various causes of this condition that can lead to heart disease.

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    Cholesterol is a waxy substance. The body needs it and it is found in the blood. It is necessary for building healthy cells, but in excess amounts, it can pose health risks, including heart disease. While it can be inherited, what causes high cholesterol is usually both treatable and preventable. Understanding the causes is critical in preventing it.

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    Lifestyle

    what causes high cholesterol How a person lives can contribute to high cholesterol. Blood vessel walls are damaged by cigarette smoking. This makes them vulnerable to the buildup of fatty deposits. Good cholesterol may also be lowered by smoking.

    Not following a healthy diet puts a person at an increased risk. High-cholesterol foods will increase cholesterol levels, such as full-fat dairy products and red meat. Cholesterol levels may also rise due to consuming trans fats and saturated facts.

    Being obese increases the chance of developing this condition. Obesity is generally described as a body mass index of 30 or higher.

    Not getting enough exercise or living a sedentary lifestyle increases the risk. Exercise works to lower bad cholesterol while raising good cholesterol.

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    Family History

    If a person has a sibling or parent who suffered from heart disease younger than 55 years of age, having high cholesterol will greatly increase their risk of heart disease. Heart disease is variety of conditions affecting the heart's blood vessels.

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    Medical Conditions

    In learning about what causes high cholesterol, it is important to look at some medical conditions. Diabetes can contribute to this condition. The lining of the arteries can become damaged from high blood sugar levels. High blood sugar also contributes to low good cholesterol and high bad cholesterol.

    High blood pressure places an increase in pressure on the walls of the arteries. This can result in damage. This damage can result in fatty deposits accumulating faster.

    Other medical conditions may also cause a rise in bad cholesterol levels. These conditions include hypothyroidism, kidney problems, metabolic disorders and chronic kidney disease.

    To help prevent these conditions from contributing to increased cholesterol levels, it is critical to ensure they are properly maintained and treated.

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    Age and Gender

    Cholesterol levels will start to rise naturally after a person reaches 20 years of age. After around age 50, cholesterol will generally level off in men. It will generally stay low until menopause for women.

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    Medications

    Some medications have the potential to lower good cholesterol levels and raise triglyceride levels. These medications include beta-blockers, corticosteroids, thiazide diuretics and estrogen.

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    Resources

    WebMD. (2008). High Cholesterol – Causes. Retrieved on April 18, 2011 from WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/cholesterol-management/tc/high-cholesterol-cause

    National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. (2008). High Blood Cholesterol. Retrieved on April 18, 2011 from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/Hbc/HBC_WhatIs.html

    Mayo Clinic. (2010). High Cholesterol. Retrieved on April 18, 2011 from the Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/high-blood-cholesterol/DS00178

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    Image Credits

    Cigarette: sxc.hu - mi-sio