High cholesterol is a common and potentially serious health problem that affects millions of Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 90 million adults have high cholesterol levels. Approximately 7% of American children and teenagers between the ages of 6 and 19 also suffer from high cholesterol levels.
Knowing your individual risk for developing high cholesterol can help you to take the appropriate preventive measures to maintain healthy cholesterol levels, before it can threaten your health.
At Midwest Regional Health Services, our team of primary care doctors and specialists offer a range of preventive, diagnostic, and treatment services at our office in Omaha, Nebraska.
Is high cholesterol genetic?
Several factors can contribute to high cholesterol, one of which is genetics. While some people have a family history and genetic predisposition to developing high cholesterol, many others develop it from eating a diet high in saturated fats and cholesterol, as well as from other lifestyle factors.
Genetic high cholesterol (a medical condition known as familial hypercholesterolemia) is much less common than forms of high cholesterol caused by dietary and lifestyle factors. In addition to familial hypercholesterolemia, other health factors like obesity, which can also run in families, can increase your risk of developing high cholesterol.
Here are some of the most common factors (in addition to genetics) that can increase your risk of developing high cholesterol:
- Eating a poor diet
- Not getting enough exercise/sedentary lifestyle
- Being obese or overweight
- Excessive alcohol consumption
In some cases, the medications used to treat other health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, and inflammation can also affect cholesterol levels (by either increasing “bad” LDL cholesterol or lowering “good” HDL cholesterol levels).
Is high cholesterol preventable?
Many of the factors that increase the risk of developing high cholesterol are related to your diet and lifestyle, so there are several things you can do to help manage your risk and keep your cholesterol levels within a healthy range.
Eating a healthy and well-balanced diet low in saturated fats with sufficient vegetables and fruit, and maintaining a healthy weight are the first steps in managing your cholesterol levels and risk of other common health problems. Lifestyle factors like getting enough exercise, avoiding tobacco, and drinking alcohol in moderation are also within your control.
While anyone can develop high cholesterol, the risk does increase with age, and it’s more common among people over 40. Since high cholesterol doesn’t have symptoms, many people are unaware of their cholesterol levels until they get a blood test or have a health problem.
An annual physical is the best thing you can do to monitor your cholesterol levels and other health markers, which allows our team to catch and treat health problems as early as possible.
For more information about how to understand and manage your risk of high cholesterol and other health problems, contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our primary care providers.