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5 Causes of High Cholesterol

written by: Jason C. Chavis • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 2/20/2010

While there are natural causes of high cholesterol that cannot be controlled, such as age, sex and family history, there are also a number of different factors that weigh into a person's cholesterol level. Each of these 5 causes of high cholesterol can be controlled through actions by an individual.

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    Weight

    Obese Man 

    According to physicians working in the field of cholesterol research, excessive body weight is one of the 5 causes of high cholesterol that can be controlled by people. People who are overweight tend to have higher levels of LDL cholesterol, also known as the bad cholesterol. The best way to combat high cholesterol levels is to lose weight. Weight loss will lower not only the LDL, but also triglycerides, while at the same time raises HDL cholesterol, the good type. Conditions such as heart disease are also brought on by lower HDL levels and high triglyceride counts. This is why maintaining a healthy weight is so important to the continued functioning of the human body.

    Above left: Obese Man. (Supplied by Jmh649 at Wikimedia Commons; Public Domain; http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b9/Obesity6.JPG)

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    Diet

    Potato Chips 

    Another one of the 5 causes of high cholesterol is simply diet. Maintaining a diet low in cholesterol is highly important to keeping a healthy body. The human liver is responsible for producing both forms of cholesterol, meaning people actually do not require the intake of cholesterol from foods. Animal and dairy products are the largest culprit of cholesterol-rich diets, especially those high in fat such as red meat and cheese. For example, a person should get no more than 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day. This means that something such as an egg, which contains roughly a full day's equivalent of cholesterol, is all one should have in a single day. Unfortunately, most people consume between 240 and 360 milligrams per day. Diets rich in fruits and vegetables are the best option to mitigate problems associated with too much cholesterol.

    Above right: Potato Chips. (Supplied by Rainer Zenz at Wikimedia Commons; Creative Commons; http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7e/Kartoffelchips-1.jpg)

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    Alcohol

    Beer 

    Alcohol consumption is one of the most dangerous examples of the 5 causes of high cholesterol. While alcohol raises HDL levels, it does not lower the LDL levels in a person's body. Additionally, alcohol causes heavy damage to a person's liver and heart muscle, which ultimately raises blood pressure and the levels of triglycerides within one's system. Both of these ultimately can lead to health problems and even death. This means that alcohol's benefits of raising HDL is far outweighed by the negatives.

    Above left: Beer. (Supplied by Liftarn at Wikimedia Commons; Creative Commons; http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/78/GravityTap.jpg)

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    Smoking

    cigarettes 

    Another one of the 5 causes of high cholesterol is smoking. Consumption of tobacco products with throw a person's system into disarray by reducing the HDL levels. Since a person's body needs an adequate mix of LDL and HDL cholesterol in order to function, smoking has a negative effect which can ultimately lead to heart disease. According to studies, roughly 20 percent of all heart related deaths are caused by this phenomena.

    Above right: Cigarettes. (Supplied by CrazyD at Wikimedia Commons; Creative Commons; http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/32/Zwei_zigaretten.jpg)

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    Stress

    Stress 

    Stress is also a condition which should be watched closely when concerned about high cholesterol levels. While stress itself does not cause high cholesterol, it leads to conditions which may provoke secondary concerns. It is considered of the 5 causes of high cholesterol because it affects a person's mood and eating habits dramatically. Studies link the onset of stress with the consumption of fatty foods, alcohol and cigarettes. Stress promotes an increase in metabolic processing within the human body, meaning calories are burned at a faster rate. Since the body needs to quickly respond with new caloric intake, a person tends to eat foods high in sugar or fats to compensate, raising cholesterol levels and creating a positive feedback loop.

    Above left: Stress. (Supplied by Joe Loong at Flickr; Creative Commons; http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c8/Wikip-facepalm.jpg)

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    Resources

    EMedicine Health: http://www.emedicinehealth.com/high_cholesterol/article_em.htm

    WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/cholesterol-management/tc/high-cholesterol-cause