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75 year old athlete. Have high cholesterol level. What is the underlying cause?

Dec 2012
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General & Family Physician
Practicing since : 2012
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I am a healthy, 75 year old female athlete. I run five days a week, play tennis two or thee days a week and work out at the gym three days a week. My cholesterol levels came back 258; LDL 164; Triglycerides 40. I eat a Mediterranean diet. I read labels. I eat no junk food. No fried food. Skim milk. Olive oil on my salad. Rarely eat red meat. No cold cuts, bacon or sausage. No tea, no coffee, no soda. I drink water all day long. One glass of red wine with dinner I am 5 feet two inches tall and weigh l04 pounds. I do not diet. I eat three meals a day. Why is my cholesterol so high? XXXXXXX
Posted Thu, 21 Mar 2013 in Cholesterol
Answered by Dr. Nsah Bernard 1 hour later

Thanks for posting on XXXXXXX

It appears from your description that you are actually having a good/healthy lifestyle, since for many people, abnormal cholesterol levels (hyperlipidemia) are partly due to an unhealthy lifestyle -- most commonly, eating a diet that is high in fat. Other lifestyle factors are:
Being overweight (for you that seem not to be the cause), heavy alcohol use (since presently you are not drinking that much but remember that a past history of heavy drinking is a risk factor??? in your case not sure), lack of exercise and leading an inactive lifestyle (that you did not mention) and ageing (seems to be very associated to most cardiovascular dysfunctions as one is getting older).
Other medical conditions that can lead to hyperlipidemia are (but not limited to below): Diabetes (so the need to screen for diabetes), underactive thyroid gland (the need to test for thyroid hormones), Polycystic ovary syndrome-PCOS (which will need ultrasound and probably testing for some reproductive hormones by a gynobs) and Kidney disease (kidney function, kidney US and other related tests would be included to determined if you have any). There other vast number of conditions that might still have to be exploited by an internist or endocrinologist. Some drugs might responsible for high cholesterol (but given that you do not have any history of using medications/drugs).
Now my suggestion, continue maintaining a healthy diet, start exercising regularly, control your blood pressure regularly and probably visit a cardiologist who might probably include statins to treat the high cholesterol (note that your cholesterol values are not too high, so lifestyle change might be sufficient).

Hope this helps and best wishes
Dr Nsah
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: 75 year old athlete. Have high cholesterol level. What is the underlying cause? 3 hours later
I left out the HDL , which is 85. I already exercise very regularly. I have no past history of heavy alcohol use. I have no history of diabetes, thyroid or kidney problems. My last EKG did not show any problems. I do not understand what you mean by lifestyle changes. I am already doing all the right things. I read somewhere that elite XXXXXXX athletic women have this problem. What do you think? Thanks you. XXXXXXX
Answered by Dr. Nsah Bernard 26 minutes later
Thanks for updating,
Your HDL cholesterol (it is the good cholesterol and in higher values is good) is fine. If you notice i mentioned the fact that your age could be a risk factor for increased cholesterol as your system is slowly not being able to digest the lipid as it use to do. So yes for your question that elite XXXXXXX athletic women develop this problem. The cause and the only explanation is the fact that your ageing. What to do now, is see a cardiologist who can get your a prescription of statins to lower the cholesterol before it causes a serious condition.
Your lifestyle is already close to optimal as per your description so I do not feel you need to change much as you are maintaining a good diet, food hygiene, exercising and the fact that you do not have any underlying diseases like diabetes, thyroid or kidney diseases are all good signs that your high cholesterol levels will cause much problem or risk getting aggravated.
But there will be a need to lower with statins given that your natural body mechanism are unable to lower them. They are a wide range of food sources that supply lipids into the body including plants and so the fact that your system will not break down fat and metabolise as needed, will make it accumulate the more and read high values when tested.

Hope this helps and let me know if you are satisfied. Feel free to ask more questions.
Dr Nsah
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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