What Causes High Cholesterol Levels?

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Filed Under: Heart Health, Cholesterol
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

What Causes High Cholesterol Levels?

Learn about two common reasons you may have elevated cholesterol

The most important thing to remember about high cholesterol is that it is a symptom of a problem and not a problem by itself. If your cholesterol levels are high, it's almost always because of a underlying imbalance somewhere in your body—and by correcting that situation, you can reduce your cholesterol numbers.

Here are two of the biggest causes of high cholesterol levels.

High Cholesterol Cause #1: Damage to Arteries

Cholesterol is usually thought of as fat that floats through the bloodstream and blocks arteries. This is an oversimplification.

While it's true that cholesterol is found in the plaques that clog arteries, there has to be some type of damage or weakness in the artery wall before cholesterol, calcium, and the other substances that form plaque will begin collecting there. This damage can be caused by dozens of factors, including:

  • Rancid, oxidized fats
  • High blood pressure
  • Loss of arterial elasticity
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Improperly digested foods
  • Chemical toxins

If you can reduce the impact of any (and preferably all) of these factors, you will simultaneously reduce your cholesterol level.

High Cholesterol Cause #2: Dietary Imbalances

Highly elevated cholesterol levels can also be symptomatic of dietary problems. Diets that are lacking sufficient fiber or certain vitamins and minerals, or high in saturated fats, cause high blood cholesterol levels. These eating habits also make it harder for cholesterol to stay properly dissolved in the blood, and therefore it's more likely to “settle out” and accumulate on arterial walls.

Again, however, the problem in this instance is the diet, not cholesterol. This is one of the reasons why changing your diet is so effective for lowering cholesterol levels.

More Dr. Williams Advice on Cholesterol

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