Can High Cholesterol Be Hereditary (Inherited)?

In general, your chance of developing high cholesterol increases when you stick with poor diet (especially high in saturated fats) and become a sedentary individual (lack of physical activity). But did you know that if you have a family history of heart disease (particularly if you have a sibling or parent who had heart disease before the age of 55) you risk increases?! If the family history has an effect, does it means that high cholesterol is hereditary and can be inherited?

In general, how does your cholesterol increase?

Both high cholesterol and hypertension (high blood pressure) are pretty common to be found together in many cases.

They are often associated with the decreased health of your heart and cardiovascular system because they play a key role in affecting and inhibiting blood flow in the blood vessels (both in the arteries ‘blood vessels that carry rich-oxygen-blood away from your heart and veins ‘blood vessels that carry poor-oxygen-blood back to the heart’).

Before understanding how your cholesterol increases, you should completely understand what actually it is! It is a fat-like substance that can be found in the body’s cells.

Moreover, there are also some foods that naturally contain it such as egg yolk. Though the elevated levels of it in your bloodstream are commonly considered bad for your entire health, but your body actually needs it.

In appropriate and healthy level, it can support the body to run some important functions such as to make hormones and other essential substances. It also can help the body make vitamin D. Even in pregnant women, elevated cholesterol is very common because it is needed to support the growth and development of baby during pregnancy, particularly for the baby’s brain development.

image_illustration09The problem is present when it is too high. Too much cholesterol that travels through your blood can be a serious problem to your heart and cardiovascular system.

High cholesterol can cause atherosclerosis which then can be potential to lead to a clogged artery (a condition when the blood inside of artery cannot flow). And as well we know, it is important to have a good blood flow since blood is the mass transportation of your body to distribute lots of essential nutrients and oxygen to cells of your body.

As you age, you chance of developing more episodes of high cholesterol increases – see in here for more detailed information of this topic!

In general, the way of your cholesterol to increase is influenced by two major factors; the cholesterol intake that you get from diet and the ability of your own body in lowering cholesterol.

Eating right and exercise (getting plenty of physical activity) can help limit your cholesterol intake and boost your HDL. HDL is considered as good cholesterol since it can help lower LDL (bad cholesterol). Having high HDL can improve your body in controlling LDL.

Furthermore, exercise is also helpful to improve your overall health in long term, including for your liver (an organ that also has a significant contribution to remove LDL from your body).

Does your genetic factor affect your risk?

Experts put a family history of heart disease (if you have a mother /sister who had it before the age of 65 or a father /brother got it before 55) into one of risk factors of high cholesterol. In other words – yap, genetic factor that you have has an effect.

Other risk factors include:

  1. Hypertension. People with more episodes of high blood pressure are more likely to also have high cholesterol. This occurs due to too high pressure inside the blood vessels can harm and damage the walls of blood vessels. Over time, the damaged walls of blood vessels can speed the process of accumulation for fatty deposits on the blood vessel walls which the can create plague buildups (atherosclerosis).
  2. Poor diet. If you choose diet high in saturated fats, trans-fats, and cholesterol, your LDL can raise more quickly.
  3. Weight (overweight & obese). More weight you gain, it can trigger your blood pressure to rise, either for your LDL.
  4. Poor in exercise. Lack of physical activity can increase the risk of developing lots of health problems such as overweight, hypertension, and raised LDL.
  5. Bad habits and lifestyles such as smoking (abusing tobacco). Uncontrolled stress and poor sleep (sleep deprivation) also can affect your blood pressure – and as mentioned before, high blood pressure can trigger your LDL to rise.

How far your genetic factor affects your cholesterol levels?

Normally, the elevated of cholesterol in many adults is often triggered by poor diet, lack of exercise and other unhealthy habits that can raise LDL.

Genetic factor also has an effect. But it doesn’t cause a significant contribution when it works alone – remember, it is only one of many risk factors of high cholesterol.

However, sometime the genetic trait can have much more contribution than others. A condition of high cholesterol when genetic trait play a key role in causing the problem is medically called familial hypercholesterolemia.

People with familial hypercholesterolemia usually need more effort in keeping their LDL off. The lifestyle approaches alone may not be helpful enough. Many times, they need medical intervention in controlling their significant elevated LDL.

How does familial hypercholesterolemia occur?

Experts believe that it occurs due to inherited genes in families in an autosomal dominant manner (a condition for a parent with gene mutation (altered gene) that causes the problem has 50% (a 1 in 2) chance to pass on that gene mutation to each of her /his children).

In other words, autosomal dominant manner means that a child only needs to get the altered or abnormal gene from one of her /his parent in order to inherit that abnormal gene.