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What causes high cholesterol in the body?

Learn more about the factors that may increase your risk of high cholesterol...

Cholesterol is a fatty substance found in every cell in the body which is produced naturally by the liver and can also be obtained from the diet. Found in all animal food products, it is vital for the maintenance of cell membranes, production of vitamin D and bile acid. 

Read more about cholesterol.

What causes high cholesterol in the body

Smoking, a high alcohol intake and family history of heart disease can all lead to high cholesterol. Our cholesterol levels can be lowered by making minor changes to our diet and lifestyle choices. Foods containing high levels of saturated fats including red meat, cheeses, fats and oils contain high amounts of cholesterol. Unlike animal products, plants do not contain cholesterol so eating more fresh fruit and vegetables as well as seeds, nuts and whole grains can help to lower our cholesterol levels. Reducing our alcohol intake and exercising more also helps to lower the risk of cholesterol-related diseases. 

As well as diet and lifestyle, our cholesterol levels can also be affected by having certain conditions such as familial hypercholesterolemia and thyroid disease. Hormones produced by our thyroid gland play a major role in the regulation of metabolism and aid the breakdown of fats including cholesterol. If the thyroid gland is underactive or overactive, the body’s ability to process cholesterol can be affected. Hypothyroidism, in particular, can lead to hypercholesterolemia, which is the increase of LDL cholesterol in the body.