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Four avoidable mistakes that increase your risk of high cholesterol

High cholesterol

(NaturalNews) Cholesterol, a double edged sword. At normal levels, cholesterol is an essential element to maintaining good health. Cholesterol is a fatty substance vital for the formation of cell membranes, bile acids, vitamin D and certain hormones. However, when levels increase beyond what's normal, it becomes a silent killer that puts you at risk of a heart attack.

High levels of LDL or bad cholesterol lead to fat build-up in the arteries, also called plaques, which over time narrow the arteries and may cause coronary heart disease or a heart attack. HDL, or good cholesterol, on the other hand, carries cholesterol molecules to the liver where they are broken down and eliminated from the body.

Your genes play a significant role in whether or not you will suffer from high cholesterol. If your parents have high cholesterol levels, then chances are you will too. However, while we can't control your genetic makeup, your genes are not the only culprit that puts you at risk; your lifestyle is also vitally important.

Here are four lifestyle factors that are entirely in your control and which put you at risk for high cholesterol.

You have poor dietary habits

Eating a diet high in saturated fat, trans-fats and cholesterol can raise cholesterol levels. These foods include most animal products (like eggs, dairy and meat), baked goods, and fast or processed foods.

As reported by Health, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ordered food manufacturers to stop using trans-fats in their products in 2015. However, companies have been given a three year notice period in which to change their products. In the meantime, be sure to scan food labels thoroughly and steer clear of any product that lists "partially hydrogenated oil" as an ingredient.

Furthermore, it is important to up your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables and drink plenty of filtered water during the day.

You are obese

In addition to poor food choices, your weight is another factor that you can control. People with a body mass index (BMI) above 30 usually have lower levels of HDL, or good cholesterol, and higher levels of LDL, or bad cholesterol.

Also, a man with a waist circumference of 40 inches (or more), and a woman with a waist circumference of at least 35 inches carries a heightened risk.

You don't work out

The third controllable factor is a lack of exercise. The more you move while eating a healthy diet, the less likely you'll end up being overweight or obese. In addition, regular exercise boosts your levels of HDL cholesterol, while increasing the particle size of LDL molecules, which makes them less harmful to your body.

You smoke

This is one you already know. Smoking lowers your levels of HDL cholesterol and damages blood vessel walls, making them more likely to accumulate fatty deposits and cause a heart attack. Smoking cigarettes is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. It is the primary cause of 90 percent of all lung cancer deaths. Why not quit smoking today?

So, while cholesterol may run in your family, that doesn't mean you can't fight it. High cholesterol levels are often the result of unhealthy lifestyle choices and thus preventable and curable. A healthy diet, watching your weight and regular exercise can go a long way in this regard.

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