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High cholesterol basics
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Expert Opinion: Cholesterol
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High cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease, one of the leading causes of death in Canada. But effective cholesterol treatment saves lives. Whether you want to learn more about high cholesterol, have high cholesterol but do not take medication, or have high cholesterol and take medication, you've come to the right place!
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Am I at risk?

Am I at risk of high cholesterol?

There are many things that increase your risk of having high cholesterol:

Things you can't change

While some cholesterol comes from your diet, about 80% of cholesterol is made in the liver. The production of cholesterol in your liver is affected by your family history (genetics) and how your liver functions. This means that your diet and lifestyle are not the only things causing high cholesterol levels. Your risk of high cholesterol also increases with age.

Certain medical conditions can also increase your risk, including:

  • diabetes
  • untreated underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
  • certain types of liver disease
  • chronic kidney problems

Additionally, some medications can increase the risk of high cholesterol, including:

  • progestins (such as medroxyprogesterone and progesterone) - found in birth control pills and medications to treat menopause symptoms
  • steroids
  • certain blood pressure medications

Things you can change

There are some things you can change that will affect your risk of high cholesterol:

  • being overweight
  • poor dietary habits
  • smoking
  • not getting enough exercise

Concerned you may be at risk for high cholesterol? Do some of these risk factors hit close to home? Talk to your doctor about having your cholesterol levels tested.

Am I at risk of developing heart disease?

High cholesterol is an important risk factor for heart disease. Risk factors for heart disease include:

Things you can't change:

  • age and gender (women who are past menopause and men older than 55 years are at higher risk)
  • ethnicity (people of African, South Asian, and First Nations descent are at higher risk)
  • family history (people who have family members who have had strokes or heart attacks before age 60, have or have had angina, or are prone to developing high blood pressure or high cholesterol are at higher risk)

Things you can change or get treatment for:

  • high cholesterol
  • high blood pressure
  • high levels of hs-CRP (C-reactive protein, a protein the body makes when there is inflammation)
  • sedentary lifestyle (not enough exercise)
  • obesity or being overweight
  • smoking
  • consuming too much alcohol (more than 3 drinks per day or 15 drinks per week for men, and more than 2 drinks per day or 10 drinks per week for women)
  • stress
  • diabetes
  • metabolic syndrome (a group of risk factors for heart disease that tend to be found together, including a large waist size, high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar - if you have a large waist size plus 2 or more these risk factors, your doctor may diagnose you with the metabolic syndrome)

Concerned about your risk of developing heart disease? You can calculate your risk here, and talk to your doctor to find out what you can do to reduce it.

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Condition and disease information is written and reviewed by the MedBroadcast Clinical Team.

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