11:51 AM

What Influences Your Cholesterol?

Influencers like diet, exercise and your family tree can all affect your cholesterol readings

Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance found in the bloodstream and your body’s cells. It helps produce cell membranes and hormones. There are two types of cholesterol: good cholesterol – high-density lipoprotein or HDL, and bad cholesterol – low-density lipoprotein or LDL. Too much of one type, and not enough of the other, puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke.

“Despite more public awareness and better screening tools, less than 50 percent of those with high cholesterol actually receive treatment,” says Lehigh Valley Hospital–Schuylkill surgeon Ivor F. Lewis, MD, with LVPG Family Medicine. “Of those that are in treatment, only about one-third have reached the recommended goal for good cholesterol.”

Good influencers

  • High-fiber foods like fruits,vegetables, whole grains
  • Omega-3 fatty acid-rich fish like salmon, tuna and trout
  • Nuts
  • Healthy weight
  • Regular exercise

Bad influencers

  • Fatty, high-cholesterol foods likefatty meats, cheese
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Obesity
  • High LDL (bad) cholesterol
  • Smoking

Is it your genes?

A rare condition called familial hypercholesterolemia allows cholesterol to build up regardless of weight, diet and exercise. But people without this genetic condition can still inherit a predisposition for high cholesterol or developing risk factors for it. “It’s up to your physician to determine if early screening for cholesterol is appropriate,” Lewis says.

Prescription help

Along with diet and exercise,your doctor may recommend an LDL-lowering drug, like a statin or a bile acid sequestrant. Other medications may raise HDL levels – the good cholesterol – such as niacin or fibrates. “Treatment recommendations for high cholesterol continue to evolve, so stay tuned,” Lewis says.