Sudden Increases in Blood Cholesterol: Causes and Risks

Sudden Increases in Blood Cholesterol: Causes and Risks

When you hear the word cholesterol, you may immediately think of the negative effects this substance can have on your health — and with good reason. However, there are two main types of cholesterol that can affect your body: HDL and LDL. HDL, or high-density lipoprotein, carries cholesterol to the rest of your body; LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, takes cholesterol from your liver and other parts of your body to the liver to be broken down. People with high cholesterol tend to have an increased risk of heart disease, and many people who have heart attacks or strokes were unaware that they had high cholesterol until it was too late. Fortunately, there are a number of different warning signs that can alert you to the possibility of high cholesterol. Most of these signs aren’t serious on their own, but when you notice several of them together, it’s time to take action and possibly schedule a doctor’s appointment to find out more about your blood test results.

The causes of high cholesterol

Sudden increases in blood cholesterol can happen for a variety of reasons. Eating too much, drinking too much alcohol, taking medications such as steroids or anti-inflammatory drugs, an organ transplant or cancer treatment, certain genetic disorders or even excessive stress can all cause high cholesterol. It is important to see your doctor if you think this is the cause of your increased cholesterol levels so they can find the best course of treatment for you. In some cases, it may be necessary to temporarily stop taking medication that causes cholesterol levels to rise. In other cases, diet changes or different types of medication may be necessary. If you have questions about how diet may affect your cholesterol levels, talk with your doctor about making healthy lifestyle changes. They will help you determine what type of food and exercise regimen is right for you. Losing weight by eating less and exercising more will lower your cholesterol level. Reducing saturated fat intake can also help reduce cholesterol levels but should only be done under medical supervision. Eating more soluble fiber (oatmeal, beans) reduces cholesterol absorption from the gut while insoluble fiber (bran cereal) helps prevent constipation which contributes to high LDL (bad) cholesterol. Increasing activity through walking and gardening will help burn off excess calories contributing to higher levels of bad cholesterol. And lastly, adding omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, walnuts, and flaxseed oil can help control triglycerides which are linked to atherosclerosis. Your doctor can advise you on the appropriate dose. In addition, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should consult their doctors before starting any new dietary supplements.


Long-term effects

People with high cholesterol are more likely to have atherosclerosis or coronary artery disease, which can lead to heart attack or stroke. High cholesterol also increases the risk of death from any cause. The chance of developing this disorder doubles for every 20-mg/dL increase in blood cholesterol level. High levels also increase the risk of dementia and cancer. Surgical removal of the gallbladder (cholecystectomy) often leads to a reduction in LDL-C levels but is not a recommended treatment for hypercholesterolemia on its own as it may decrease bile acid absorption thereby increasing LDL-C. Conversely, people who suffer from an extreme lack of bile production or liver disease often experience lowered LDL-C levels because their bodies cannot absorb fats properly. Hormone replacement therapy has been shown to reduce HDL-C and raise triglycerides, thus contributing to an increased risk of heart disease when administered alone. Similarly, some drugs such as statins produce adverse effects on lipid profiles; therefore they should be monitored closely by healthcare providers. Statin use is associated with an increased risk of diabetes mellitus type 2 in women, so these drugs should be used cautiously in female patients. Other factors that may contribute to an increase in cholesterol include age, diet, and exercise.


The risks of having high cholesterol

The risk of high cholesterol is a serious condition that can result in atherosclerosis or the hardening of the arteries. That can lead to problems such as heart attack, stroke, impotence, and kidney failure. Some behaviors or conditions can cause sudden increases in blood cholesterol. Risk factors that are controllable include being overweight or obese, having diabetes, being sedentary (little physical activity), and smoking cigarettes. Risk factors that cannot be controlled by diet alone include family history, genetics, age over 45 years old, pregnancy, and menopause. Other risk factors for having high cholesterol may also be present in some people but are not yet known or understood. These include medications, chemicals in the environment, excess sugar intake, and stress. One way to decrease your chances of developing high cholesterol is to stop smoking cigarettes. The good news is you can make lifestyle changes like exercising more and losing weight if you're overweight or obese. With these changes, you'll reduce your risks of developing high cholesterol levels.

Short-term risks

Lack of sleep can lead to a deficiency in REM sleep, which is the time during which cholesterol levels are regulated. If your body is chronically sleep-deprived, it may start pulling excess cholesterol from healthy tissues and redistributing it to other cells. Over time, this may increase your risk of heart disease or stroke. 

-Certain medications can contribute to high cholesterol levels, such as corticosteroids like prednisone or birth control pills that contain estrogen. Antibiotics like tetracycline can also cause an elevated level of cholesterol because they prevent natural intestinal bacteria from breaking down bile salts. These antibiotics inhibit the liver's ability to produce LDL receptors, so less LDL gets absorbed into the bloodstream. -A diet too high in saturated fats (found in animal products) and trans fats (found mostly in processed foods) can lead to increased blood cholesterol levels because these types of fat promote inflammation throughout the body.