Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance found in the blood. It is produced naturally by the liver, and every cell in your body contains it.
We need cholesterol to produce hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help digest food. However, cholesterol can also be extracted from the foods we consume. If your blood contains a lot of cholesterol, then you have high cholesterol.
It can make you more likely to have cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke. Read on to understand the different causes of high cholesterol.
What are the types of cholesterol?
The two main types of cholesterol are low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). A high level of LDL cholesterol negatively affects your health.
The proteins in your blood carry cholesterol. Lipoproteins are a combination of proteins and cholesterol.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) It is known as the “good” cholesterol. This is because it tries to remove “bad” cholesterol from the blood. High-density lipoprotein returns unnecessary cholesterol to the liver, which is broken down by the liver so the body can excrete it.
low-density lipoprotein (LDL) It is called “bad” cholesterol. If LDL cholesterol is high, it can build up inside the walls of blood vessels. As a result, the arteries narrow and block, increasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Triglycerides (TGLs) Triglycerides, which are specific fats, are also found in the blood. It is stored in the fat cells of the body. Eating unhealthy foods, diets high in sugar, excessive alcohol intake, or obesity can all increase your triglyceride level.
Triglycerides can also narrow the walls of your arteries, which increases your risk of heart disease. High levels of triglycerides can coexist with normal HDL and LDL cholesterol levels.
High blood cholesterol can result from a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, stress, and aging. In addition, menopause, obesity, diabetes, hypothyroidism, familial hypercholesterolemia, and other diseases such as kidney and liver disease can also contribute to unhealthy cholesterol levels.
What causes high blood cholesterol?
High cholesterol can happen to anyone and has a variety of different causes. Some factors, including lifestyle choices, are within one’s control; others are not. Here are the causes of high blood cholesterol.
Lack of physical activity
If you consume food and do not exercise, your body will not be able to get rid of the cholesterol that builds up and causes high cholesterol levels in the blood.
Exercise helps by stimulating enzymes that take LDL cholesterol from the blood to the liver, where it either turns into bile or is excreted from the body. So the more you exercise, the more bad cholesterol your body will get rid of.
Unhealthy eating habits
The amount of HDL and LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream affects the types of fats consumed. Trans fats and saturated fats raise blood cholesterol.
Fatty meats, baked goods, processed foods, fried foods, and full-fat dairy products contain saturated fat. Drinking brewed coffee also raises cholesterol. Although it does not contain cholesterol, it contains two types of natural oils, caffeine and alchohol, which increase cholesterol levels. Therefore, many studies have found that drinking coffee leads to higher levels of cholesterol in the blood.
Smoking raises the bad LDL cholesterol level while lowering the good HDL cholesterol levels at the same time. A body of research has conclusively linked smoking to higher cholesterol levels.
The sticky nature of LDL cholesterol is exacerbated by smoking. As a result, it sticks to the walls of the arteries and eventually causes them to become clogged.
The likelihood of having a heart attack or developing other heart diseases increases when an individual smokes and has high cholesterol levels. However, quitting smoking is good for the heart.
Chronic stress can lead to high cholesterol, which increases your risk of high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and lowers your levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol, according to the research.
That’s because stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline trigger changes that can lead to blood sugar spikes and inflammation. In addition, high cholesterol may eventually cause the liver to produce more triglycerides and cholesterol.
Numerous surveys show that obesity increases your risk of high triglycerides, which raise cholesterol levels. Due to the increase in adipose tissue in your body, more free fatty acids are delivered to the liver.
Obesity increases the risk of cardiovascular disease through increased fasting plasma triglycerides, higher LDL cholesterol, lower HDL cholesterol, etc.
Obesity can lead to increased triglycerides, which in turn raise cholesterol levels. This is because the adipose tissue of obese individuals releases more free fatty acids into the liver.
In addition to increased fasting plasma triglycerides, obesity also leads to higher LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol, which contributes to cardiovascular disease risk.
Type 2 diabetes
Even if you have diabetes with controlled blood sugar, you can still have high levels of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. Diabetic dyslipidemia is a condition that occurs when a person has diabetes, low amounts of good cholesterol, high levels of bad cholesterol, and increased triglycerides.
In addition, LDL particles are usually smaller and denser in people with diabetes. This increases their ability to enter the blood vessels and form plaques in the arteries.
Some medicines may unexpectedly affect your cholesterol. Among them are various birth control pills, retinoids, corticosteroids, antivirals and anticonvulsants.
Diuretics and older versions of beta-blockers are two examples of high blood pressure medications that can also increase cholesterol.
Estrogen levels affect your cholesterol. After menopause, when estrogen levels drop, your cholesterol increases. Research shows that LDL and total cholesterol levels increase before and after the last menstrual period.
In addition, women gain 8 to 10 pounds after menopause, which also increases the chances of high cholesterol due to lack of exercise.
As we age, our cholesterol levels usually go up. This increased risk of heart disease is due to several factors, including medications, hormone levels, physical activity, and changes in body composition.
Thyroid hormones help your body get rid of excess cholesterol. Therefore, hypothyroidism or an underactive thyroid gland leads to an increase in total cholesterol levels in the body and LDL cholesterol levels.
Your cholesterol levels can increase if you have kidney problems. Investigations show that nephrotic syndrome, a type of kidney disorder, raises LDL and total cholesterol levels.
Liver impairment can affect cholesterol levels because the liver produces, processes and breaks down cholesterol. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which occurs when excess fat is deposited in the liver, is one of the most common diseases.
The more severe type is known as NASH (non-alcoholic steatohepatitis). Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis leads to cirrhosis by causing swelling and scarring of the liver.
Excessive drinking of alcohol
Alcohol does not contain cholesterol, but it may affect cholesterol levels. This is because the body breaks down alcohol into triglycerides, which can raise LDL cholesterol levels.
High sugar diet
The liver produces more LDL cholesterol and triglycerides when you consume a lot of sugar. Therefore, not only saturated fat but too much sugar is also a culprit that raises cholesterol.
Familial hypercholesterolemia is a genetic condition. Significantly raises bad cholesterol levels. The condition may cause heart attacks, coronary artery disease, etc. at an early age.
Making lifestyle changes is the first step to lowering your cholesterol. Lowering high cholesterol levels is essential to avoid many potentially serious problems. Talk to your doctor or health professional for recommendations on medications that can help you.