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What are the causes of high cholesterol?

By April 15, 2015 - 12:39pm
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I went to the doctor's for an appointment yesterday and found out I have higher bad cholesterol. It's not really high, but it's outside the suggested amount. I am 22 years old and thought I ate pretty healthy, so I'm curious what may be causing it.

I'm working on improving my diet, but are there any other causes of high cholesterol?

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Hi Susan,

Thank you, this is extremely helpful! This is great background information on HDL and LDL. I have started adjusting my diet on low cholesterol foods and am working out more often- even if it's just going on short walks during work breaks. I'll be sure to ask my family about our health history too.


April 21, 2015 - 10:25am
HERWriter Guide

Hi Lauren

Thanks for your post! 

Even the fittest people can find out they have higher cholesterol than they'd like. 

We’ve been told for years to watch our cholesterol. Now a new study from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) and Lund University in Montreal, Canada has added a reason to keep cholesterol low early in life.

Their research shows that the key to preventing aortic valve disease is keeping “bad” cholesterol or LDL low.

Aortic valve disease affects approximately five million people in the United States. It is the most common reason people need surgery to replace the aortic valve.

The aortic valve allows oxygen-rich blood to flow out of the heart to the aorta, which is a large blood vessel that branches out to send blood throughout the body.

Cholesterol is a substance that is waxy and similar to fat. It is found in all cells in the body where it helps digest food and is used to make hormones and vitamin D. Your body is able to make all the cholesterol it needs, but additional cholesterol comes from certain foods.

There are two types of cholesterol in the body. High-density lipoproteins (HDL) are known as “good” cholesterol because your body needs healthy levels of HDL to function.

Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are known as “bad” cholesterol. When LDL is high, calcium and cholesterol can build up on the insides of blood vessels, reducing the flow of blood.

If you are told you have high cholesterol it typically means you have high levels of LDL. This can increase your risk of getting heart disease or having a stroke.

Researcher Dr. George Thanassoulis at RI-MUHC said that the study shows that people with high LDL are also at increased risk of developing aortic valve disease.

The RI-MUHC study tracked approximately 35,000 people in the Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology (CHARGE) Consortium, which is an international collaborative.

The researchers concluded that high LDL was associated with a buildup of calcium in the aortic valve. This causes the opening of the valve to narrow, allowing less blood to flow through and causing aortic valve disease. This condition can cause shortness of breath, chest pain, fainting or heart failure.

Previous studies have shown a connection with high LDL, but were not able to show any benefit for patients with advanced aortic valve disease who tried to lower their cholesterol to slow the progression of their condition.

The RI-MUHC study suggested that lowering LDL needs to happen earlier, before the onset of aortic valve disease, in order to reduce the risk of developing aortic valve disease.

Lauren, other causes besides bad eating include lack of exercise, genetics, pregnancy, PCOS and diabetes.  

Since you are young and healthy, ask your family about your health history.

I hope this helps! 


April 15, 2015 - 5:24pm
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