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What are the factors that cause high cholesterol? Is cholesterol controllable?

Cholesterol is a soft, fat-like substance found in the blood stream and in every component of your body. It is used to form cell membranes and to produce hormones like estrogen and testosterone. Your family history, age and gender can increase your risk of high cholesterol. But there are other more controllable factors to consider to control and lower your cholesterol.

An adult body produces all of the cholesterol it needs to function properly, but your body also consumes cholesterol through the food you eat. Too much cholesterol can lead to heart disease, stroke and kidney damage. You should avoid diets that are high in saturated fat such as animal products and processed foods. Also avoid foods with trans fatty acids. Balance out your diet with vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, fish and controlled amounts of carbohydrates and fruits to avoid obesity and high blood sugars, which can lead to other medical issues. Increase your intake of foods with high Omega-3 fatty acids such as wild salmon and other seafood, and avocados.

Your weight is also a controllable factor. Excess weight can lead to high cholesterol. Physical activity and regular exercise help to lower cholesterol and also help you lose weight. Shedding just 5 to 10 pounds can often be enough to improve your cholesterol level.

As a last resort, you can manage your cholesterol with medication. There are a variety of medications available to help lower your cholesterol levels, but you should talk to your physician to better understand your risk factors before starting any type of medication.

—Dr. Lubna Ahmed, RWJ Medical Associates, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton

This content is intended to encourage a healthy lifestyle. For medical advice and treatment, see a physician.