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A risk factor is something that increases your chances of getting a disease or condition.

Although a person with specific risk factors is at increased risk, anyone can develop a lipid disorder. Having one or more of the risk factors listed below does not necessarily mean that you will get a lipid disorder. But if you do have any of these specific risk factors, you should talk with your doctor about what you can do to reduce your increased risk of developing a lipid disorder.

Cholesterol levels increase as we age. In women, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels often increase after menopause.

Other factors that may increase your risk for lipid disorders include:

Family history of lipid disorders—Certain types of high cholesterol are inherited.

  • A diet high in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol —Eating food high in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol increases cholesterol levels. However, dietary cholesterol does not appear to have as strong an effect on blood cholesterol levels as saturated and trans fats.
  • Sedendary lifestyle —Moderate to intense exercise done on a regular basis helps your body decrease unhealthy LDL cholesterol and increase healthy HDL cholesterol. Lack of regular physical activity decreases the body's ability to balance lipids.
  • Smoking —Smoking lowers the amount of HDL, the healthy type of cholesterol, in the blood.
  • Alcohol intake —While moderate amounts of alcohol can raise the healthy HDL cholesterol, alcohol can also raise unhealthy triglyceride levels.
  • Overweight and obesity —Being overweight causes cholesterol levels to rise.
  • Hypothyroidism —An underactive thyroid can lead to increased triglyceride and cholesterol levels.
  • Diabetes mellitus —Diabetes is associated with elevated triglyceride levels.
  • Metabolic syndrome—This condition is marked by elevated blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose, and body weight. Excess weight centered around the midsection is of particular concern.
  • Liver disease —Having liver disease can raise cholesterol levels.
  • Kidney disease —Some kidney disorders are associated with elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
  • Certain medications —Many medications, including some antihypertensives, oral contraceptives, and steroids, can alter cholesterol levels. Ask your doctor if any of the medications you take could be causing your cholesterol levels to rise.

Revision Information

  • Understanding your risk for high cholesterol. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/UnderstandYourRiskforHighCholesterol/Understand-Your-Risk-for-High-Cholesterol%5FUCM%5F001213%5FArticle.jsp. Updated December 16, 2013. Accessed January 10, 2014.

  • What causes high blood cholesterol? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hbc/causes.html. Updated September 19, 2013. Accessed January 10, 2014.

  • Hypercholesterolemia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated November 20, 2013. Accessed January 10, 2014.

  • Hypertriglyceridemia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated November 20, 2013. Accessed January 10, 2014.