To make the picture of your cardiovascular health more complete, you must consider other risk factors. Each risk factor can influence lipid levels. The risk factors for cardiovascular disease are divided into those you can change and those you cannot.
The factors you can change include:
- Smoking - contains free radicals, which damage the walls of your blood vessels and depletes the body of vitamin C, which protects the walls of the blood vessels. Smoking also lowers HDL by as much as 15%. If you stop smoking, your HDL and vitamin C levels may return to a higher level, which helps to dissolve the fatty deposits on the arteries.
- High blood pressure - damages the walls of the arteries and accelerates the development of blocked arteries. Some medications for high blood pressure can actually increase LDL levels and lower HDL levels.
- Inactivity - or a lack of physical exercise, is associated with a decrease in HDL. Aerobic exercise such as 30 to 45 minutes of brisk walking every other day will increase HDL levels, reduce weight and help to protect your cardiovascular system.
- Obesity - decreases HDL and increases other lipids that increase heart disease risk. Losing just 3 to 6 kg can significantly improve your cholesterol levels.
- Diabetes - accelerates the development of atherosclerosis, which in turn, increases the risk for heart attack, stroke and reduced circulation to the feet.