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Heart Disease

High Cholesterol Risk and Gender Differences


High cholesterol is often referred to as the "silent killer." That's because it doesn't discriminate when it comes to who it impacts. There are however, differences in high cholesterol risk levels depending on your age and sex. Read on to learn more about the different risks for different people.

An efficient, working heart is one of the driving forces behind a long, healthy life. Both men and women can have high levels of cholesterol, a fat-like, sticky substance that can clog the blood vessels and limit blood flow to vital organs like the heart and brain. High cholesterol levels can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, which can develop and worsen over time.

High cholesterol risks are often linked to having other medical conditions, like diabetes and high blood pressure, but they can also be affected by age and gender. While men may be more likely to develop heart disease at a younger age than women, women are not immune to the grave effects of high cholesterol.

High cholesterol risks in women vs. men

Before comparing high cholesterol risks, it’s important to understand what high cholesterol is exactly. When we talk about the dangers of high cholesterol, we generally refer to the effects of LDL cholesterol, which is the “bad” cholesterol associated with heart attacks and strokes.

Estrogen is the sex hormone in women that has been shown to have protective effects on the heart. These protective effects are due in part to its ability to regulate cholesterol levels. For this reason, premenopausal women tend to have lower levels of LDL cholesterol than men.

However, estrogen levels dramatically drop after menopause (between ages 45 and 55 in most women). Studies have shown that postmenopausal women have higher LDL cholesterol levels than men.

HDL cholesterol is the “good” cholesterol that helps carry away LDL cholesterol from the blood vessels to the liver to be broken down. Men generally have lower HDL levels than premenopausal women.

Another type of blood fat, called triglycerides, can differ in women and men. Like LDL cholesterol, triglyceride levels may be higher in postmenopausal women compared to younger men.

Other high cholesterol risks

High cholesterol levels are linked to other medical conditions. People with type 2 diabetes may have higher LDL cholesterol levels than those without type 2 diabetes. Obesity has also been linked to high triglyceride and LDL cholesterol levels in the blood. In addition, people that have a family history of high cholesterol levels or conditions like familial hypercholesterolemia are more likely to have high cholesterol than others.

Lifestyle habits can also have an impact on cholesterol levels. A diet high in saturated fats can increase the risk of high cholesterol. Without enough physical activity, you could gain weight, increasing your risk of high cholesterol.

Staying healthy

Eating a healthy diet is important for managing your cholesterol levels. Limit your intake of saturated fats. Less than 7% of your daily calories should be from saturated fats.

You should also limit your intake of high-cholesterol foods, such as egg yolks, red meat, and milk or dairy products. Instead, you can eat more fruits, vegetables, fish, and foods with soluble fiber, like whole-grain cereals and legumes.

You’ll also want to ensure you’re exercising regularly, limiting salt intake, and watching your alcohol consumption. Keeping track of your cholesterol levels on a regular basis is also a good idea. Men should have their cholesterol levels tested by age 35, while women should have their cholesterol levels tested by age 45.

If your cholesterol levels are high, your doctor may recommend a cholesterol-lowering medication. Statins are the most commonly prescribed drugs to treat high cholesterol.

Inside Rx can help

Cholesterol-lowering medications are generally covered by most insurance plans. However, if you don’t have insurance coverage or have inadequate coverage, you may be stuck paying the cash price of your medications. In some cases, you may have high out-of-pocket costs, even with insurance.

Inside Rx provides a prescription savings card to help reduce the overall cash price of medications. You could save up to 80% on both brand and generic medications.

It’s easy to use the Inside Rx card. You can print, email, text or instantly download the card to your phone. Search your medications to compare prices at pharmacies near you. Then, you can present the card at any of over 60,000 participating pharmacies across the United States to see if you can save.

For more information about Inside Rx, visit our FAQ page.

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