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How Does My Cholesterol Affect My Risk?

Who Is at Risk for High Cholesterol?

No matter your gender, age, or ethnicity, you are at risk for high cholesterol.

The following factors may put you at increased risk for high cholesterol. If one or more of these applies to you, see your doctor to have your cholesterol tested:

  • You’re a man 40 years or older.
  • You’re a woman 50 years or older or are past menopause.
  • You have a first-degree relative younger than age 60 who died of CVD.
  • You’ve experienced a previous heart attack or stroke.
  • You have diabetes.
  • You have high blood pressure.
  • You have kidney disease.
  • You smoke.
  • You’re obese*.
  • You have an inflammatory disease.
  • You have HIV.

*Obesity is indicated as a waist circumference of more than 102 cm (40 in) for men or in excess of 88 cm (35 in) for women. For people of Chinese or South Asian descent, a waist size of more than 90 cm (35 in) for men or in excess of 80 cm (32 in) for women indicates obesity.

Causes of High Cholesterol

Some causes of high cholesterol are beyond your control. High cholesterol can be hereditary, and levels of LDL naturally rise as people get older. Your cholesterol is also influenced by these unchangeable factors:

  • Age
  • Family history
  • Gender (risk increases in post-menopausal women)

There are factors, or habits, you can change that negatively impact your cholesterol. These include:


There are no symptoms for high cholesterol. Many people with high cholesterol are not aware their levels are high, putting them at risk for CVD.

Associated Risks

Not only does high blood cholesterol strongly increase your chances of having a heart attack or developing cardiovascular disease, it also puts you at greater risk for other serious health problems, such as the following:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity