Skip to Main Content

Are You at Risk?

High blood cholesterol is a known risk factor for heart disease and stroke. It comes with no warning signs and can impact your health before you even know you have it. That’s why it’s important to recognize the risk and deal with it seriously.

Your lifestyle can put you at risk

One of the greatest influences on your heart disease risk is your lifestyle. Your dietary and exercise habits can have a tremendous impact on your blood cholesterol levels. If you eat a high-fat diet, don’t exercise regularly, and smoke you’re putting your health at risk. Fortunately, just by making a few lifestyle changes you can significantly improve your health and well-being.

A healthy lifestyle helps prevent heart disease

In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers reported that middle-aged women who maintained a healthy lifestyle had an 80% lower risk of heart disease, when compared to the other women in the study group. Over 84,000 women participated in this study and results were based on dietary and lifestyle data gathered over a period of 14 years.7

Inherited risk factors

There’s plenty of evidence to show that a healthy lifestyle is good for your heart. However, there are other factors that put you at risk for high cholesterol and these can’t be changed. For example, if one or more of your parents had high cholesterol, then there’s a greater chance that you will have high cholesterol. Although you can’t change these types of risk factors, you can minimize their effects on your health by identifying them early and take action to manage your cholesterol levels.

If you think you may be at risk for high cholesterol, talk to your doctor about getting a cholesterol test done.

Common risk factors for high cholesterol:

Risk factors you can’t control Risk increases if:
Age You are a man over 40 or a woman over 50. High cholesterol risk increases with age.
Gender You are a post-menopausal woman. Estrogen helps keep cholesterol levels in a normal range. After menopause, estrogen levels drop, increasing high cholesterol risk.
Ethnicity You are of First Nations, African or South Asian descent. People from these ethnic backgrounds have a greater risk of heart disease.
Family history Close family members (your parents or siblings) have a history of heart disease, stroke or high cholesterol.  A family history of heart disease can double your own risk.
Previous stroke or TIA (transient ischemic attack) You have had a previous stroke or a TIA.
Risk factors you can control Risk increases if:
Overweight Your Body Mass Index is greater than 25 or your waist circumference is greater than 102 cm/40 inches for most men or 88 cm/35 inches for most women.
Eating habits You eat a diet high in saturated and trans fats.
Physical inactivity You perform less than 20 minutes of vigorous exercise, 30 minutes of moderate exercise or 60 minutes of light exercise, 4 to 7 days of the week.
Smoking You smoke or have only recently stopped smoking.
High alcohol consumption You drink excessively. Too much of any type of alcohol can increase your blood pressure and may contribute to the development of heart disease and stroke. Drinking alcohol in moderation is not harmful for most adults.
Stress If you have high levels of stress or prolonged stress. Stress may be associated with higher blood cholesterol levels, increased blood pressure and a greater risk of developing atherosclerosis.
High blood pressure  You have been diagnosed with high blood pressure. High blood pressure can damage blood vessel walls causing scarring that promotes the buildup of plaque in your arteries.
Diabetes You have diabetes. Uncontrolled diabetes tends to raise LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol. Lifestyle changes and medical treatment can help you control these risk factors.