Cardiovascular disease is the #1 cause of deaths worldwide.  Luckily the death tolls are showing a decrease each year as a result of medical advancements and education.  Even so, the world is still searching for more ways to decrease cardiovascular disease.  There are two factors contributing to cardiovascular disease risk with a little education, can reduce these death rates even more.  These factors are poor diet or genetic.

Poor Diet and Increased Cardiovascular Disease Risk

The Cleveland Clinic released research findings showing 45% of cardiovascular deaths were linked to unhealthy eating habits.

Here are a few diet tips highlighted in the study:

  • The LARGEST number of heart disease deaths was linked to a HIGH intake of processed meats and sugar-sweetened beverages with a LOW intake of nuts.
  • A diet LOW in fruits and vegetables with HIGH intake of salt showed a HIGH risk of stroke.
  • Having type II diabetes INCREASED cardiovascular disease risk

What the American Heart Association has to say about poor diet and increased cardiovascular disease risk

  • Decrease salt intake not only from lowering table salt but reducing processed foods containing high sodium.
  • Daily sugar intake should not exceed 25 g for women and 29 g for men.  Daily sugar intake should mostly come from natural sugars such as in fruits.
  • Over the past 30 years, obesity has become an epidemic contributing to stress on the heart as a result of consuming more added sugars.
  • The more cholesterol circulating in your blood, the higher the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

High cholesterol is one of the major controllable risk factors for coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke. If you have other risk factors such as smokinghigh blood pressure or diabetes, your risk increases even more. – AHA

Note:  Smoking cigarettes (including e-cigarettes) is not part of poor diet choices but poor lifestyle choices that can also increase cardiovascular disease attributing to 1/3 of heart disease deaths.

High Cholesterol Cardiovascular Disease Risk: Diet AND Genetics

Cholesterol levels are discovered only with lab testing usually with a lipid panel.  A lipid panel usually consists of:

  • Total cholesterol
  • HDL (Good Cholesterol)
  • LDL (Bad Cholesterol)
  • Triglycerides

Total cholesterol is a calculation adding the HDL and LDL together.  Triglycerides are a type of fat (lipid) obtained from food that is stored in fat cells to be used as a backup energy source in your body.  High levels of triglycerides mean you are eating too many calories and can accumulate in the blood increasing heart disease.

What makes cholesterol good or bad

Most people wonder what the difference between HDL (Good Cholesterol) and LDL (Bad Cholesterol).

HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein)

HDL is actually the smallest lipoprotein in your body but the densest. It acts as a transporter, transporting LDL (the bad cholesterol) to the liver for removal as well as playing an important transporter role in hormone functions.

LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein)

LDL has a very important role in the body acting as another type of transport lipoprotein.  Its main job is to transport fat molecules to cells much like iron is transported to cells by way of transferrin.  Your cells need fat to metabolize it for energy.

LDL is actually GOOD but becomes bad when it is oxidized within the arterial walls.  Oxidized LDL is the BAD LDL leading to an increase in overall LDL concentrations and total cholesterol.  The BAD LDL leads to plaque build-up in arteries increasing cardiovascular disease.

How High Cholesterol Is Caused by Poor Diet

High cholesterol foods may be good for you and may not be.  Don’t forget, your body makes cholesterol and is needed for proper metabolism.

However, the worst foods that can increase your bad LDL cholesterol are:

  • Fried foods
  • Fast food
  • Processed meat
  • Deserts

The reason THESE foods are worse for you is that they contain higher amounts of sodium, sugars, and the wrong kind of oils (hydrogenated oils) your body does not need.

Hydrogenated oils contain the highest amounts of trans fats (the worst kind of fat considered by doctors).

Manufacturers have been adding hydrogen to oils such as vegetable oil, palm oil and peanut oil (peanut butter) to increase its shelf life and cut costs.

Hydrogenated oils can also be found on the FDA labels of packaged foods.  That’s good news!  You can find it and avoid it!

How High Cholesterol Is Caused by Genetics

High cholesterol can also be caused by genetics.  An individual who avoids the bad foods described above that can increase cholesterol can STILL have high cholesterol due to bad genetics.

A person who DOES NOT avoid the worst foods AND has bad genetics causing an increase in high cholesterol has an even HIGHER risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Now, remember the statistic stated above about 45% of cardiovascular deaths are linked to poor diets?  Genetics play a part in the remainder of the 55% of cardiovascular deaths.  Genetics does not take the whole 55% as smoking, environmental factors, hormone levels, sleep, exercise, and quality of life can also attribute to cardiovascular health.  Even so, genetics is a fairly new approach to analyzing health problems.

Cholesterol (HDL and LDL) are made of lipoproteins.  The APOE gene is responsible for telling your body to make a protein called apolipoprotein E.  The apolipoprotein E combines with lipids (fats) to make lipoproteins or the cholesterol we’ve been talking about in your body.

If you have taken a biology class in the past, you may remember talking about different combinations of alleles inherited from family members.  The APOE gene does, in fact, have different allele combinations that can be inherited.  The wrong combination inherited from your parents can certainly cause an increase in LDL production thus increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease.

What are the different allele combinations of the APOE gene (genotype)

  • e2/e2
  • e2/e3
  • e2/e4
  • e3/e3
  • e3/e4
  • e4/e4

These different genotypes of the APOE gene, have different effects on cholesterol and even triglycerides in your body.  Knowing which genotype you are can help identify different treatments catered specifically to your body to lower LDL or even triglycerides, thus, reducing your risk of developing the cardiovascular disease due to your genetics.

Which genotype is concerning to cardiovascular disease risk?

The genotype e2/e2 and e2/e3 experience increased triglycerides and a decrease in LDL.  This type of person response poorly to a low-fat diet and the higher triglycerides still need to be treated due to an increased risk of heart disease but not as high as other genotypes.

The e2/e4 and e3/e3 genotype have completely normal cholesterol functions.  No need to worry about bad genes increasing your risk for cardiovascular disease but, still be mindful of your diet.

The e3/e4 and e4/e4 genotype is of greater concern.  This genotype causes an increase in both triglycerides and LDL.  Cardiovascular disease risk is highest in this genotype and does respond well to a low-fat diet.

How can you find out your APOE genotype?

Genetics testing is rarely ordered by physicians but if your lipid panel comes up high, it doesn’t hurt to ask if you can be tested for your APOE genotype from your primary care physician.

If you would like to know your APOE genotype now without waiting for a doctor visit, True Health Labs allows you to order an APOE genetics test without a doctor online.

You can view a sample lab report HERE showing results of patients with the different genotypes possible as well as result interpretations and recommendations.

About 30% of the population carries the higher risk APOE genotypes.

According to the CDC, 1 in every 4 deaths are caused by heart disease.  that is around 610,000 people each year in the United States alone.

30% of 610,000 people equates to 183,000 people in the United States who died from cardiovascular disease AND possibly carried the higher risk APOE genotypes.


Knowing your APOE genotype could help you make better lifestyle decisions such as eating healthier based on your genotype, quit smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, exercising more, sleeping better, and improving quality of life.

Understanding your risks can reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, the LEADING cause of death in the world.