There are varieties of factors, which can affect your cholesterol levels. Not only does your diet have a role to play, but it also depends on how quickly your body produces and rids itself of LDL cholesterol (that’s the bad one). Your body produces all of the cholesterol it will ever need, it’s not something that we need to get from our diets, which means anything we eat that is high in cholesterol simply increases it.
Some of the factors that determine whether you have high or low LDL cholesterol include your diet, your weight, your age, sex, alcohol consumption, family history, level of physical activity, as well as your stress levels (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/symptoms-causes/syc-20350800).
There are two major types of foods that increase your bad cholesterol count – saturated fat and cholesterol. The former is a fat that is generally found in animals, though other foods contain it and the latter comes solely from animal products. Saturated fat is the most damaging, and while your body does need saturated fat to function, most of us are eating far too much of it.
It’s difficult to manage your cholesterol levels when you are carrying excess weight. If you already have high cholesterol levels then losing weight could be a major factor in bringing it back down. Why? It helps increase the levels of good (HDL) cholesterol and reduces the presence of triglycerides.
Age & Sex
Men and women tend to have similar cholesterol levels before they reach menopause. When women hit menopause, though, their cholesterol increases steeply. Therefore, it’s vital that women are aware of their cholesterol levels at this point in their lives.
We know that alcohol increases your good cholesterol, but it doesn’t lower the bad one. We don’t know why this is true, but that doesn’t give you a free pass. Here’s the thing about alcohol – it damages your heart muscle and your liver, which means higher blood pressure, and an increase in triglycerides. Therefore, alcohol is something that should be consumed in moderation. Ideally, stick to just one drink a day and be sure to take a break at least two days a week.
Your genes do play a role in your cholesterol levels because they dictate how quickly your body makes and removes LDL cholesterol. Additionally, familial hypercholesterolemia is inherited and affects one person in 500. Even if this isn’t the type of high cholesterol you have, your genes could still be a factor.
Regular exercise reduces your bad cholesterol while increasing your good cholesterol levels. Of course, there are plenty of other benefits to regularly exercising, as well… one of which is managing stress.
Stress is guilty of increasing cholesterol levels and stress also has an impact on your habits. When you’re under extreme stress, you are more likely to eat fatty foods, self-medicate, ignore the need for exercise, and make decisions that will only complicate your cholesterol problems. There are plenty of ways you can manage your stress levels, and one of the biggest ways to do so is by getting control over your sleep pattern.
Other risk factors for high cholesterol include your waist circumference, your smoking habits, and diabetes. At the core of everything is your ability to eat well and exercise regularly. They, along with a good night’s sleep, are the key to unlocking optimum health and happiness. If you feel you may have a cholesterol problem you should visit your doctor for testing. It should form part of your annual check-up and if you can’t remember the last time you had one of those… well, it’s time to contact your primary care physician to arrange one.