What Raises LDL Cholesterol?

Approximately 71 million American adults have high levels of low-density lipoprotein, but only 1 out of every 3 has the condition under control. High LDL levels can lead to atherosclerosis, a condition in which plaques form in the arteries, causing blockages that can lead to heart attack, heart disease and heart failure. If you have high LDL cholesterol, you may be able to lower your numbers by changing your diet.

Pizza is one of the biggest sources of saturated fat in the American diet. (Image: Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Ban the Trans Fat

When it comes to nutrition and cholesterol, trans fat is a major culprit. Trans fat not only directly raises LDL levels, but it also decreases levels of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" cholesterol. HDL helps protect you from heart disease by eliminating excess LDL from your blood. The combination of high LDL and low HDL significantly increases your risk of coronary heart disease and heart attack. Your intake of trans fats should not exceed 2 grams per day; ideally you shouldn't consume any trans fats at all. Processed foods like margarine, cookies, snack Items, fried foods and frozen pizza and pies are major sources of trans fats in the diet. Trans fat is also found in foods that are cooked in partially hydrogenated oils.

Say No to Saturated Fat

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, saturated fat raises your LDL levels more than anything else in your diet. To keep your LDL levels in check, limit your saturated fat intake to less than 10 percent of your calories. If you are on a standard 2,000-calorie diet, this means no more than 20 grams per day. Pizza and cheese are the biggest sources of saturated fat in the American diet, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Other sources include ice cream, beef, poultry, lamb, pork, full-fat dairy products, eggs, butter and grain-based desserts, such as cookies, cakes and pies. Some vegetable sources of saturated fat include coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil.

Curb Your Cholesterol Intake

The amount of dietary cholesterol you eat also has an effect on your LDL cholesterol. For most people, there is only a modest effect, but others are more sensitive to dietary cholesterol's effects, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Keep your intake of cholesterol below 300 milligrams per day. The richest sources of cholesterol include egg yolks, meat, full-fat dairy products, liver and other organ meats.

Consider Other Factors

Although your nutrition is a major factor in your cholesterol levels, there are other factors that can come into play. Being overweight is associated with a higher LDL level and a lower HDL level. If you're overweight, combine your new eating plan with a regular exercise routine to drop some pounds. Some factors that are out of your control may also impact your LDL cholesterol. As you age, especially if you're a woman, your LDL levels tend to rise. High blood cholesterol may also have a genetic component.

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