Cholesterol High Causes

Several factors can contribute to increased cholesterol in the blood and subsequent heart disease. Some, such as family history, age and gender, are beyond your control, while others, such as daily activity, diet and stress, can be controlled.

It’s All in the Genes

Genetics plays a key role in determining the rate at which cholesterol is produced and removed from the bloodstream. This factor alone can result in high LDL and premature coronary heart disease. If your parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters have high cholesterol, chances are high that you’ll develop it as well.

Age and Gender

Cholesterol levels tend to rise with age. Prior to menopause, women have a lower level of cholesterol than men their age, but after menopause, a significant rise in LDL levels coupled with a drop in HDL levels puts women at higher risk. While hormone therapy has been successful in stabilizing levels in postmenopausal women, a rise in triglycerides tends to be a side effect.

Generally, men over 45 and women over 55 should closely watch their cholesterol levels.

The High Fat Diet

Because the body itself manufactures cholesterol, a high fat diet is not necessarily the cause. However, a diet high in saturated fat can increase body weight and contribute to a high body fat percentage.

The Sedentary Lifestyle

If your lifestyle includes little physical activity, your risk of heart disease is increased due to arterial plaque deposits, increased body fat and weight gain. These increase the risk of angina, heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular problems.

Body Weight

Body Mass Index Chart - BMIBody weight is determined by a combination of factors as well, including your diet and your lifestyle. Excessive body weight is likely to be a problem for your cardiovascular system only when your body fat percentage is well above an acceptable level: 32 percent for women and 25 percent for men. Carrying excess body weight generally increases your LDL cholesterol level. Being overweight also puts you at risk for heart disease.

Increasing your body weight with muscle mass from body building and “bulking up” with protein may not cause a cholesterol problem, as long as those proteins are lean.

Other Causes

Alcoholic beverages can be a risk factor in heart disease. Excessive drinking can result in high blood pressure and damage to the heart wall. It can also increase triglyceride production.

Smoking reduces your HDL cholesterol level. Nicotine is also a vasoconstrictor, so blood is further impeded from flowing through arteries already clogged by plaque.

Long-term stress that changes eating habits may promote high LDL — people often gravitate towards unhealthy “comfort foods” during times of stress.

People with other health conditions such as diabetes should monitor their cholesterol levels. Diabetes can disrupt the balance of HDL and LDL, making diabetics much more susceptible to artery damage.

Combating High Cholesterol Risk Factors

Clearly, the more risk factors you have, the higher your risk of cardiovascular disease. The greater your risk, the more significant the need for you to lower your LDL. You can counter high cholesterol by eliminating as many of these causes as possible. Replace inactivity with regular aerobic exercise. Start a heart smart diet and, if weight is an issue, one that will also help you to decrease excess body fat. Stop smoking. Limit alcohol consumption. If you are diabetic, maintain strict control of your blood sugar level.


Hart, J. A. (ed). (2002). What causes high cholesterol? University of Maryland Medicine.

HealthCheck Systems. (1997). Understanding your body fat percentage.

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (nd). What makes your cholesterol high or low?