Causes of High Cholesterol

Updated:Apr 27,2017

Why is it high?
If you have high cholesterol, there’s a good chance it’s your fault. And that’s good news! It means you can do something about it.

Your body naturally produces all the LDL (bad) cholesterol it needs. An unhealthy lifestyle, such as eating unhealthy foods and being physically inactive, causes your body to have more LDL cholesterol in your blood than it needs. This is the cause of high cholesterol for most people.

Check your family historyAdditionally, some people inherit genes from their mother, father or even grandparents that cause them to have too much cholesterol. This is called familial hypercholesterolemia (FH). The severity of FH is related to the duration and degree of LDL cholesterol in the blood. FH is dangerous because it can cause premature atherosclerotic heart disease.

If you have high blood cholesterol, making lifestyle modifications is important to help lower your risk of heart disease. If they don’t lower your risk enough, you may need prescribed medications.

If that sounds bad, consider your options. It’s a lot better to change your lifestyle now, to prevent a heart attack or stroke, than to wait until a devastating event changes your life for you. Making minor changes now can help prevent major changes later.

If you have a stroke or heart failure from a serious heart attack, you may never fully recover.

Unhealthy Lifestyle
Unhealthy behaviors are the biggest reason why most people with high cholesterol have it. These behaviors include:

  • Unhealthy diet
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Smoking or exposure to tobacco smoke
  • Excess weight

Since these unhealthy lifestyle factors raise the risk of developing high cholesterol, it follows that reversing them by adopting a healthier lifestyle will help lower cholesterol. To learn how to make changes to reduce your risk, see the information in Preventing and Treating High Cholesterol.


This content was last reviewed April 2017.

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Cholesterol