High cholesterol is a condition that occurs when your blood contains too much LDL, or "bad", cholesterol. Nearly one in every two women suffers from high cholesterol, which is a scary thought considering the condition is a major risk factor for heart disease, the leading cause of death for women in the United States. A variety of factors contribute to increased cholesterol, but the good news is that you can control many of them.
Excess Cholesterol Intake
Your body produces approximately 75 percent of the cholesterol in your blood and the food you eat contributes to the remaining 25 percent. Consuming too much fat and cholesterol on a regular basis leads to excess blood cholesterol, which promotes its accumulation along the walls of the blood vessels, a condition that makes it harder for blood to flow and the heart to pump. This increases your risk for heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends healthy adults limit their daily cholesterol intake to less than 300 milligrams per day and those with high cholesterol limit their intake to less than 200 milligrams per day. One whole egg contains 212 milligrams of cholesetrol, a 3.5-ounce serving of chicken with no skin contains 85 milligrams and an 8-ounce glass of whole milk contains 33 milligrams of cholesterol.
Excess Dietary Fat
Cholesterol is not the only food component that increases cholesterol. Consuming saturated and trans fats also increase cholesterol. Foods that come from animals such as meat and dairy products contain saturated fats. The American Heart Association says saturated fat should account for less than 7 percent of your daily calories. Trans fatty acid, a bit of which is found naturally in meat and dairy products and is produced in the process of fat hydrogenation for use in processed foods, causes cholesterol levels to rise even more than saturated fats. For this reason, you should limit your trans fat intake to less than 1 percent of your daily calories. Read food labels carefully to monitor your intake of saturated and trans fats.
The term "obese" describes a person with a body mass index of 30 or greater, or who weighs 20 percent more than their ideal body weight. Nearly one-third of all adults in the U.S.A. are classified as obese. Carrying around excess body weight increases your cholesterol level. Losing even 5 to 10 pounds can help lower your blood cholesterol levels.
Some people can eat a healthy diet, exercise each day, maintain a healthy body weight and still suffer from high cholesterol. Because your body produces the majority of cholesterol in your blood, genetics also plays a role. Usually cells contain a special receptor known as the low-density lipoprotein receptor. This receptor binds to the cholesterol in the blood so that the cell can use it. A genetic mutation to the LDLR gene reduces the number of these receptors or inhibits their ability to bind to the cholesterol, thereby leaving more cholesterol in the blood, which in turn causes a high level of blood cholesterol.
- National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: What is Cholesterol?
- American Heart Association: Know Your Fats
- American Heart Association: About Cholesterol
- University of California San Francisco: Cholesterol Content of Foods
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Heart Disease
- American Heart Association: Obesity Information
- Mayo Clinic: High Cholesterol – Lifestyle and Home Remedies
- Genetics Home Reference: Hypercholesterolemia
Stephanie Chandler is a freelance writer whose master's degree in biomedical science and over 15 years experience in the scientific and pharmaceutical professions provide her with the knowledge to contribute to health topics. Chandler has been writing for corporations and small businesses since 1991. In addition to writing scientific papers and procedures, her articles are published on Overstock.com and other websites.