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What Are The Main Causes of High Cholesterol?

Causes of high cholesterol levels explained

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in your blood. While your body needs cholesterol to build healthy cells, having high cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease. When you have high cholesterol, you may develop fatty deposits in your blood vessels.

These deposits can grow, making it difficult for enough blood to flow through your arteries. Sometimes, those deposits can break suddenly and form a clot that causes a heart attack or stroke. Understanding the main causes of high cholesterol is essential for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and preventing heart disease.

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is carried through your bloodstream and attached to proteins. This combination of proteins and cholesterol is called lipoprotein. There are two types of cholesterol based on what the lipoprotein carries:

  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL): Often referred to as “cholesterol blood test, LDL carries cholesterol particles throughout your body. LDL cholesterol builds up in the walls of your arteries, making them hard and narrow.
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL): Known as “good” cholesterol, HDL picks up excess cholesterol and takes it back to your liver.

Cholesterol Levels and Tests

To determine your cholesterol levels, a blood test called a lipid panel or lipid profile is conducted. This test measures your levels of LDL, HDL and total cholesterol, along with triglycerides, another type of fat in your blood. The results can help assess your risk of heart disease and guide any necessary treatment.

What are the Causes of High Cholesterol?

Understanding the causes of high cholesterol is essential for prevention and management. Listed below are some of the primary factors contributing to high cholesterol in the human body:

Poor Diet

Saturated fats, found in red meat, full-fat dairy products and some oils, saturated fats can raise your LDL cholesterol. Often found in commercially baked cookies, crackers and cakes, trans fats are particularly bad for your cholesterol levels. Eating foods high in cholesterol, such as organ meats, shellfish and full-fat dairy products, can also increase your blood cholesterol levels.

Lack of Physical Activity

Exercise helps boost your body’s HDL (good) cholesterol while lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol. A lack of physical activity can lead to weight gain, which is linked to higher LDL levels and lower HDL levels.


Being overweight or obese is a significant risk factor for high cholesterol. Excess weight tends to increase LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol.


Smoking cigarettes can lower your HDL cholesterol and damage the walls of your blood vessels, making them more prone to accumulating fatty deposits.

Age and Gender

Cholesterol levels tend to rise as you age. Before menopause, women typically have lower total cholesterol levels than men of the same age. After menopause, however, women’s LDL levels tend to rise.


High cholesterol can run in families. If your parents or grandparents had high cholesterol, you might be at risk as well. Familial hypercholesterolemia is a genetic condition that causes very high LDL levels from a young age.


High blood sugar contributes to higher LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol. Additionally, high blood sugar damages the artery linings.

Certain Medical Conditions

Conditions such as hypothyroidism, kidney disease and liver disease can contribute to high cholesterol levels.

What are the Signs of High Cholesterol?

High cholesterol typically doesn’t cause any symptoms. A blood test is the only way to detect it. However, extremely high cholesterol levels can lead to physical symptoms, such as:

  • Xanthomas: These are yellowish patches or nodules on the skin, often around the eyes or joints, caused by deposits of cholesterol.
  • Chest pain: If high cholesterol has caused significant heart disease, you might experience angina (chest pain) due to reduced blood flow to your heart.

Lowering Cholesterol Levels

Lowering cholesterol levels is important for reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes. While genetics play a role in cholesterol levels, lifestyle changes can significantly impact them. Here are several strategies for lowering cholesterol levels:

  • Healthy Diet: Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. Avoid foods high in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol. Increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and flaxseeds, which can help lower LDL levels.
  • Regular Exercise: Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. Activities such as brisk walking, cycling and swimming can help improve your cholesterol levels.
  • Weight Loss: Losing even a small amount of weight can help lower your cholesterol levels. Focus on making sustainable changes to your eating and exercise habits.
  • Quit Smoking: Quitting smoking can improve your HDL cholesterol level and benefit your heart health in many other ways.
  • Limit Alcohol Intake: Drinking too much alcohol can lead to high cholesterol and triglyceride levels. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
  • Medications: In some cases, lifestyle changes alone may not be enough to lower cholesterol levels. Your doctor may prescribe medications such as statins, bile-acid-binding resins or cholesterol absorption inhibitors to help manage your cholesterol.

Schedule Your Cholesterol Test at Touchwood Pharmacy

High cholesterol is a significant risk factor for heart disease, but it is manageable with the right lifestyle changes and medical interventions. Understanding the main causes of high cholesterol—such as poor diet, lack of exercise, obesity, smoking, genetics and certain medical conditions—can help you take proactive steps to lower your cholesterol levels and maintain a healthy heart.

Take control of your health today by booking an appointment with Touchwood Pharmacy.  Our expert team is ready to provide you with accurate results and personalised advice to help you manage your cholesterol levels effectively. Don’t wait for symptoms to appear; early detection is key to prevention. Schedule your cholesterol test now to start your journey toward a healthier you. Your health is our priority at Touchwood Pharmacy.