What determines cholesterol levels?

Cholesterol is a very important lipid in our blood. In past blogs, we have discussed how our health can be negatively impacted by having high cholesterol levels. But what determines these elevated numbers? The answer is that a mix of genetics and environment can play a role in your blood cholesterol level.

Genetic Factors There are about 1,500 gene variants that can cause high blood cholesterol, and if not sufficiently addressed, these types of diagnosis can put individuals at risk for an early onset of heart disease. Being informed about your family’s genetics and health history is essential, and can provide clues as to the likelihood of having a genetic predisposition.

Environmental Factors The environment you grew up in can also impact your blood cholesterol. This is sometimes referred to as “epigenetics.” How you grew up, your parents’ behavior, even smells you associate with certain behaviors and foods can ultimately impact your blood cholesterol level!

While 1 in 3 adults have high cholesterol, only 1 in 300 can attribute their high blood cholesterol level to a diagnosis that is referred to as familial hypercholesterolemia. This is an inherited genetic condition which affects the way our bodies process cholesterol, which negatively impacts one’s chances of suffering from excessive plaque buildup in the arteries (atherosclerosis) and heart disease. This genetic mutation that causes familial hypercholesterolemia is present from birth, and can be discovered through testing. 

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