Excess blood cholesterol becomes stuck in the linings of an artery, eventually the artery narrows.
HEART UK - The Cholesterol Charity
7 North Road
T. 0345 450 5988
Normal Helpline hours: Monday - Friday from 10am to 3pm
Dietetic advice available in Punjabi, Urdu and Hindi on Fridays
Download our simple two page factsheet to find out more about the UCLP.
Smoking affects your heart health by:
- reducing the level of HDL (good) cholesterol
- making cholesterol more sticky and more likely to stick to the inside of artery walls
- increasing heart rate
- constricting & damaging arteries
- reducing available oxygen
What can cause high cholesterol?
People are often surprised to find out they have high cholesterol, so our Cholesterol Helpline is often asked this question.
High cholesterol can be caused by an unhealthy lifestyle
Diet and lifestyle can affect the amount of fat in our blood and the way it circulates around the body. All of the following can either increase your cholesterol level or affect the ratio of good to bad cholesterol:
- eating a diet high in saturated fat
- not being physically active
- being overweight or obese
- having a large waist circumference.
Sometimes the way we live our life can affect how our genetic makeup is expressed. For example a diet high in saturated fat or being overweight may help “swtich on" certain genes which increase cholesterol levels.
By making significant changes to your diet, you should see at least a modest reduction in your cholesterol levels within 3-4 weeks. It is important to stick to these initial changes and perhaps build on them in order to keep your cholesterol low. It can take up to 3 or even 6 months to establish new dietary habits.
Some medical conditions and prescribed medicines can affect your cholesterol levels too. If you are worried this is the case, talk to your GP or speak to our Cholesterol Helpline. In particular the following are a common cause of unhealthy blood fats (cholesterol and triglyceride levels) and should be looked into and ruled out:
- type 2 diabetes
- underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroid)
- kidney problems
- liver problems
- alcohol intake
Drugs which most commonly raise cholesterol include some diuretics, steroid hormones, immuno-suppressants, beta blockers and antidepressants. If you are on any of these drugs your doctor will monitor your cholesterol and may have to adjust your treatment to help keep your cholesterol under control.
Other reasons: cholesterol levels naturally increase as we get older and following the menopause, women may find their cholesterol levels increase.
High cholesterol can be inherited
If one of your parents, a brother or a sister has high cholesterol you might too.
There are over 100 genes that can affect blood fats and how these are metabolised in the body. Sometimes just one faulty gene is enough to increase your cholesterol to dangerous levels and sometimes high cholesterol results from the small effects of many genes.
Inherited conditions that cause high cholesterol:
- Familial* Hypercholesterolaemia (FH)
- Familial* Combined Hyperlipidaemia (FCH)
- Type 3 Hyperlipidaemia
- Polygenic Hypercholesterolaemia
- Lysosomal Acid Lipase Deficiency (LALD)
*Familial – this word usually indicates an inherited condition