If you adopt a healthy lifestyle but your cholesterol remains stubbornly high, these surprisingly simple reasons could be the cause. Find out how to control high cholesterol.

If you have high cholesterol, you’ve probably heard of the importance of following healthy habits like eating healthy and exercising. This can help reduce the level of low density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad” cholesterol) cholesterol and triglycerides, a form of fat found in the blood, as well as increase the level of high density lipoprotein cholesterol. (HDL, or “good” cholesterol).

The first four steps to lower cholesterol


Regular exercise, defined as 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity four to six times a week, can raise HDL levels and lower LDL and triglycerides.


A heart-healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and fish can also help control cholesterol.

Avoid smoking

Smoking lowers HDL levels

Maintain a healthy weight

For overweight or obese people, losing 5-10% of body weight can improve cholesterol levels

While these lifestyle changes are very important in helping to manage high cholesterol, they are not always enough for everyone. Plus, there may be some surprising culprits that undermine your efforts.

12 sneaky causes of high cholesterol

If you’re doing everything you can to lower your cholesterol but keep it high, know that you are not alone. Here are some of the most common reasons.

1. You have a genetic risk for high cholesterol.

If you are someone who has a relatively healthy lifestyle and your cholesterol level is high you probably have a genetic component that leads to low cholesterol. Familial hypercholesterolemia is an inherited disease that causes cholesterol to build up in the blood.

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2. You’re on a fad diet

People with high cholesterol should avoid the keto diet, a diet high in fat and low in carbohydrates touted as a way to lose weight. The most effective diets for lowering cholesterol are plant-based or vegan diets, in which you lower your food intake of cholesterol. If you still want to include meat in your diet, stick to lean proteins like chicken, turkey, and fish.

3. You have hidden fats in your diet

While lowering cholesterol makes sense, it’s not the only aspect of heart-healthy eating. It’s also important to limit not only saturated fat but also trans fat, both of which increase LDL levels. Cut down on those unhealthy fats by consuming less red meat and processed meat (like sausage), butter, and whole dairy products.

4. You expect your diet alone to cure high cholesterol

Healthy eating is essential, but it may not be enough if you are genetically predisposed to high cholesterol. With dietary changes, you can expect about a 5-10% decrease in the amount of cholesterol they can lower, but results vary. Exercise is also important.

5. You don’t make your own food

When you eat out, you don’t have complete control over your eating. Even if you try to make healthy choices, you don’t know how your food is cooked or what ingredients are used. Plus, portion control can be more difficult. The easiest way to make sure you’re following a heart-healthy diet is to prepare your own meals. And make dining out a casual treat!

6. You are doing the wrong kind of exercise

While any physical activity is good, aerobic or cardiovascular exercise has been shown to help lower LDL levels and increase HDL levels. Consider walking, biking, swimming, dancing, or other cardio activities that you can do at moderate intensity.

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7. You are taking drugs that increase cholesterol levels

Some drugs including steroids, retinoids, and progestins used to treat other conditions can increase cholesterol levels. Make sure your doctor knows about all the medications you are taking. There may be alternative treatments that will not affect your cholesterol.

8. You consume too much alcohol

It is not necessary to stop drinking, but it should be done in moderation. Too much alcohol can increase cholesterol and triglyceride levels and contribute to weight gain. The For men, no more than two drinks per day and women, only one.

9. You are not taking statins as prescribed.

Statins have had a huge impact in saving lives. But to be effective, they must be taken exactly as prescribed. Make sure you know when to take them and in what dose. Your pharmacist can answer all of your questions.

10. Statins are potentially ineffective for you

There is a subset of people who cannot tolerate statins. There is another class of drugs that can also be used to help lower LDL, the PCSK9 inhibitor, but it is generally only recommended in patients with a very high risk of heart attack or stroke.

11. You expect results too soon

If you’ve just made a lifestyle change or started taking medication, it may be too early to see results. Keep in mind that high cholesterol didn’t develop overnight and it may take some time to bring it back to healthy levels. Keep working with your doctor and sticking to your treatment plan to get results.

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12. You Rely on Medication Without Changing Your Lifestyle

A study published in February 2020 in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that people with high cholesterol tended to gain more weight and exercise less after being prescribed statins. While statins and other cholesterol lowering drugs are effective, they are not meant to be the only way to manage high cholesterol. If you need help making lifestyle changes, your doctor can guide and support you.

If you’re doing everything you can to lower your cholesterol, including lifestyle changes, but it’s not enough, talk to your doctor. There are many treatments available to help you manage high cholesterol and lower your risk of heart attack and stroke, so you can stay healthy for many years to come.

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