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Cholesterol: Inherited or Man Made?

Por Ana C. López, Nutrition Counselor, MyDiet™ Team -

Perhaps you have heard that high cholesterol is something that you simply "inherit” and that it's inevitable. On the other hand, some say that your lifestyle and other environmental factors cause it. Who should we believe?

There is some truth in both statements. Two types of factors affect blood cholesterollevels: modifiable and non-modifiable. Modifiable factors are those we can control by making changes in our behaviors or habits, while non-modifiable factors can not be changed by anything we do.

Non-modifiable risk factors include:

  • Age: Cholesterol levels generally increase with age.
  • Gender: Before menopause, women usually present lower cholesterol levels than men of the same age. However, after menopause, "bad" cholesterol, or LDL, tends to increase.
  • Heredity: Genes play a significant role in the risk a person has to develop high blood cholesterol levels. Hence, if your parents or grandparents have battled cholesterol, this could put you at a higher risk for having high cholesterol levels.

Now, let's talk about the factors that we can control. Modifiable risk factors include :

  • Diet:A diet high in fat and cholesterol is significant risk factor that elevates blood cholesterol levels. The main food sources of these fat and cholesterol are foods of animal origin, such as red meat, poultry, shellfish, whole dairy products, and eggs. Choose lean meats and fat-free dairy products, and try to eat only the recommended portions detailed provided in your individual diet plan Also, try to increase your consumption of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Overweight or obesity: Losing weightcan help decrease your total cholesterol levels and LDL, as well as increase your levels of "good," or HDL cholesterol, which helps prevent the formation of cholesterol plaque deposits in your arteries.
  • Physical activity:Get moving! Physical inactivity is a significant risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease. Exercise helps decrease LDL cholesterol and  triglyceride levels, while increasing HDL cholesterol. The United States American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) 1and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week.

Even though there are modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors that affect cholesterol levels, your body will always benefit from any positive changes you make to achieve a healthier lifestyle. Do whatever is in your power to decrease your health risks and improve your quality of life.


  1. American College of Sports Medicine (2007). Guidelines for healthy adults under age 65. Retrieved in June 2008 from
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2008). Physical Activity for Everyone. Retrieved in June 2008 from


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