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The Surprising Reason Why Your Cholesterol Is High

The answer could be lurking inside you.
Woman holding her neck

Cholesterol—the Big Bad of heart disease—can actually be a Good Thing. For starters, you need cholesterol. This essential soft, waxy substance is found not only in your bloodstream, but in every cell in your body, where it works to produce hormones such as estrogen and testosterone, vitamin D, cell membranes, and bile acids that help you digest fat. Cholesterol even helps in the formation of memories and is crucial for neurological function.

If you can read this, thank your cholesterol!

But cholesterol can also cause damage, if you have the wrong kind. And there's a surprising reason why you may have the wrong kind.


High-density lipoprotein or HDL is considered "good" cholesterol because it removes "bad" cholesterol from your circulation and artery walls, returning it to the liver for excretion, which can help prevent heart disease.

Low-density lipoprotein or LDL is considered "bad" cholesterol since it circulates in your blood and may build up in your arteries, eventually forming plaque that narrows your arteries and makes them less flexible (a condition called atherosclerosis). If a clot forms in a narrowed artery that leads to your heart or brain, you could suffer a heart attack or stroke.

A person with high cholesterol levels often has no signs or symptoms, which is why it is sometimes referred to as a silent danger. Routine screening and regular blood tests, however, can help detect high levels and reduce cardio-risk.

Here's One Surprising Reason Why Your Cholesterol Is High

Surprise: it's that butterfly-shaped gland that sits at the base of your throat—your thyroid!

Your thyroid is responsible for releasing hormones that control metabolism, which govern how your body uses energy. Your thyroid hormones also regulate other vital functions like breathing, body weight, body temperature, heart rate and nervous system functioning. Here's a lesser-known fact: a growing body of research points to overt and subclinical hypothyroidism can increase your risk for high cholesterol.

Sometimes the thyroid under or over-produces thyroid hormone—hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism respectively—which can wreak havoc on your system in various ways.

How Hypothyroidism Affects Cholesterol

If you have this thyroid condition, your body is not making sufficient thyroid hormones, which can have a pretty significant effect on cholesterol levels for several reasons. Thyroid hormones help regulate LDL or "bad" cholesterol clearance from your blood. Too little thyroid hormones mean not enough cholesterol clearance, which can lead to an increase in your "bad" cholesterol levels. As well, low thyroid hormones might cause greater intestinal cholesterol absorption, which can also lead to elevated cholesterol levels.

Data suggests that 1 in 300 people in the United States is living with hypothyroidism, and as many as 13 million Americans have undiagnosed hypothyroidism. Prevalence increases with age, and the condition is more common among females. To add to this, many doctors are not on the lookout for subclinical hypothyroidism.

Recommendation: You might have a thyroid dysfunction that is not yet developed enough for your doctor to notice, which is why it's important to be proactive and ask about subclinical hypothyroidism if you start to see your cholesterol numbers creep up. Fortunately, keeping your thyroid in balance will help keep your cholesterol in check. And to live a happier and healthier life don't miss these essential 70 Things You Should Never Do For Your Health.

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