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High Cholesterol Symptoms to Watch For

When good cholesterol turns bad.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

High cholesterol can lead to heart disease, stroke, and other serious health conditions—but knowing symptoms and risk factors is crucial for prevention. "There are ways to manage high cholesterol, and the wonderful news is that heart disease is 90% preventable," says cardiologist Leslie Cho, MD. "Even if you have a significant family history of high cholesterol, you can prevent heart disease." Here are high cholesterol symptoms and risk factors to be aware of. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss Already Had COVID? These Symptoms May "Never Go Away".

1

Watch Out For Trans Fats

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According to the American Heart Association, trans fats—found in ultra-processed, prepackaged and fried foods—lower good cholesterol (HDL) and raise bad (LDL) cholesterol. "Trans fats have a very negative impact on the body," warns Dr. Cho. "Not only do they worsen your cholesterol, but they also increase your markers of inflammation." 

2

How Much Time Are You Sitting?

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Spending all day sitting down—for example an office job to the car to the couch—can do a number on your cholesterol, even if you work out regularly. "We found that time spent standing rather than sitting was significantly associated with lower levels of blood sugar and blood fats. Replacing sitting time with stepping was also associated with a significant reduction in waistline and BMI," says Dr Genevieve Healy, senior research fellow at the School of Public Health, The University of Queensland, Australia.

3

BMI

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If your body mass index (BMI) is over 30, you might want to get your cholesterol checked. "If you are obese and have high cholesterol, losing weight should help lower your cholesterol, as well as your risk for other obesity-related conditions including diabetes and cardiovascular disease," says Johns Hopkins Medicine.

4

Does Cholesterol Run In the Family?

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"Oftentimes, one of the biggest factors that determines your cholesterol levels is your genes," says Kate Kirley, MD. "How your genes affect your cholesterol is pretty complicated, but it's safe to say that high cholesterol tends to run in families. For most people, genetic testing isn't necessary or helpful unless they have very high cholesterol levels. And because genes are something we can't change this is why medications are an important tool for treating high cholesterol."

5

Eating Cholesterol Doesn't Mean High Cholesterol

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Despite decades of fat (not to be confused with trans fats!) being maligned as a nutritional villain, it's not more likely to raise your cholesterol than any other macronutrient. "One of the biggest things we see is that people think their cholesterol levels are more tied to what they eat than they really are," says Dr. Kirley. "The amount of cholesterol that you eat, doesn't actually impact your own cholesterol very much. And that's because your body is making cholesterol. It makes cholesterol no matter what. Even if you eat no cholesterol, your body makes cholesterol. What you eat matters, but it has less impact on cholesterol levels than a lot of people might realize." And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more