The causes of high cholesterol

Like elevated blood pressure (hypertension), one of the scariest things about high cholesterol is that there is often no detectable sign or symptom. Juts like high blood pressure, high cholesterol contributes greatly to a build of plaque or ‘atherosclerosis’ in your arteries, which is the main cause of heart attacks and strokes. in this article, we look at the causes of high cholesterol and ways to reduce it.

We recommend starting to check cholesterol at different ages depending on your risk factors for having high cholesterol and heart disease.

Causes of High Cholesterol

Factors we consider when checking if your cholesterol is high include:

  • Family history,
  • Weight,
  • BMI and
  • Waist circumference,
  • Other diseases you have.

Similarly, we recommend repeating or rechecking your cholesterol levels at different intervals depending on these risk factors as well as the likelihood of it having changed since the last test.

If you had been diagnosed with high cholesterol and then started medication, made a big change to your lifestyle or reduced your weight, your doctor is likely to check your cholesterol levels sooner than someone who had normal cholesterol and has not had any changes to their weight or lifestyle habits. It is very important to work with your GP to understand when you may need your next cholesterol test.

If I have high cholesterol does this mean I need to take pills?


Whilst there are some individuals that will need to take medication to reduce their cholesterol, this is not always the case and we consider carefully if medication needs to be started or not. We look at your other risk factors for disease and usually only start medication in those people who are at an increased risk of heart attack or stroke. We know that lifestyle is a major contributor to high cholesterol and therefore improving some aspects of lifestyle can also often lead to improvements in your cholesterol.

Ways to reduce  your high cholesterol

The most common ways you can reduce your blood cholesterol are:

  • exercising regularly (ideally, 30 mins of moderate intensity exercise daily, enough to be a bit sweaty and out of breath such as a brisk walk, a swim or a
  • weights session for example)
  • keeping a healthy waist circumference (less than 94cm in Caucasian med, less than 90cm in Asian men and less than 80cm in all women)
  • reducing alcohol (alcohol contributes to a larger waist circumference and hence raised cholesterol)
  • avoiding a diet high in fat. (in particular, avoiding trans fats and saturated fats)
  • eating a diet that is predominantly unprocessed (processed foods and fats tend to lead to higher cholesterol in some people).
  • some diets are helpful in improving blood pressure such as the ‘Mediterranean diet’.

When did you last have your cholesterol checked by your doctor?

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