Causes of High Cholesterol
Primary Hypercholesterolemia: The main type of high cholesterol is a chronic condition with no single clear cause. It is called primary hypercholesterolemia, or idiopathic hypercholesterolemia, or essential hypercholesterolemia.
Risk Factors: There is not a single cause, but there are multiple lifestyle risk factors that make it more likely:
- Dietary factors
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Inactivity and exercise factors
- Overweight or obesity
- High blood pressure
Genetic Factors: There is also believed to be a number of genetic factors influencing high cholesterol, making it more likely for some people than others. However, it is not a genetic disease with a single genetic failure in this case (although some genetic disorders can cause secondary hypercholesterolemia; see below).
Where multiple genetic factors occur rather than a single genetic disorder it is referred to as a “polygenic syndrome”, meaning that multiple genes are involved in a complex way. The disease is also not clearly inherited in a familial way, but a familial history is another indirect risk factor.
Secondary Hypercholesterolemia: In a minority of cases, the high cholesterol levels in the blood may be caused by a single major disease. This is called “secondary hypercholesterolemia” meaning that the high cholesterol occurs “second” after some other “primary” (first) disease.
In a way, secondary hypercholesterolemia is less desirable because it means there are two diseases. On the other hand, it may be more desirable to have the secondary type, because at least the underlying cause can perhaps be treated successfully, thereby hopefully curing the high cholesterol (unlike the situation with primary hypercholesterolemia).
Causal Disorders: Disorders that can cause secondary hypercholesterolemia include:
- Hypothyroidism (Myxedema)
- Liver disease
- Nephrotic Syndrome (kidney disorder)
- Diabetes (sometimes, but more often they are simply associated rather than causally linked)
- Hormonal contraceptive side-effect
Note: This site is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. See your doctor or other qualified medical professional for all your medical needs.