Medically reviewed by
Dacelin St Martin, MD
Triple board-certified in Sleep Medicine,
Internal Medicine, and Pediatrics.
The word “cholesterol” has some bad connotations. Yet, not all cholesterol is harmful. In truth, cholesterol is essential for the body’s production of vitamin D and several hormones and for forming cell membranes.
There are various varieties of cholesterol. The form of cholesterol that’s frequently linked to detrimental impacts on health is low-density lipoprotein (LDL). It has a higher proportion of fat than protein, causing it to build up and create fat plaques in your arteries if there is too much of it, which can cause heart disease.
The ability to absorb extra cholesterol is possessed by high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. It initially provides your body with the necessities, and only then does it clean up anything that may otherwise cause accumulation. Instead of avoiding cholesterol, you should learn to get the proper kind in your diet to control your numbers.
Factors Contributing to Elevated Cholesterol Levels
Most of us assume that bad eating choices directly cause increased cholesterol levels, a key risk factor for heart disease. Even though diet significantly impacts cholesterol levels, it is not the only cause of an increasing level. Here are five additional risk factors for high cholesterol, including:
It’s a prevalent misperception that, in the absence of obesity, dietary adjustments are sufficient to regulate cholesterol levels. Yet, sedentary lifestyles can cause high cholesterol in people who are not overweight.
Several studies have examined the impact of aerobic and strength training on blood cholesterol levels, finding that exercise increases good cholesterol (HDL) while reducing bad cholesterol (LDL).
2) Excessive Exercise
Everything in excess can be bad for your health, including exercise. Cholesterol levels may rise because of intense workouts. Overworking your body’s stress response causes a series of physiological processes to be set off when you overwork it. Serious harm could result from these reactions. Also, it could lead to long-term stress and raise your chance of developing metabolic diseases, which indirectly influence cholesterol levels.
3) Metabolic Diseases
In some circumstances, having a particular illness increases the likelihood of having high cholesterol levels. Diabetes, thyroid hypofunction, and pancreatitis are a few prevalent illnesses associated with high cholesterol.
Your general health can be significantly affected by mental and emotional stress. The appetite for unhealthy foods brought on by some psychological stressors raises harmful cholesterol levels. In actuality, elevated LDL levels brought on by stress are one of the factors that make people susceptible to heart disease.
5) Less Sleep
Studies have discovered a connection between changes in cholesterol levels and the quantity and quality of sleep. Several bodily functions are synchronized and performed optimally – thanks to sleep cycle management. Sleep deprivation naturally results in higher stress levels, slower brain function, and poorer circulation. All these factors play a role in the blood lipid levels shifting.
The correlation between sleep quality and cholesterol levels appears to be U-shaped. Hence, over time, people who consistently sleep for less than six hours each night may impact their cholesterol levels, similar to those who consistently sleep for nine hours or more. Oversleeping has a similar detrimental effect on cholesterol levels to over-exercising.
Certain over-the-counter medications may impact your blood lipid levels. According to research, taking birth control pills can increase your risk of atherosclerosis and high cholesterol. Increased cholesterol levels are also linked to other pharmaceuticals, such as blood pressure medications and steroids.
Cholesterol and Sleep
Both excessive and insufficient sleep has a detrimental effect on cholesterol levels, according to a published study. A group of 1,666 men and 2,329 women over 20 were examined.
Low HDL levels and high triglycerides are more likely in women who sleep less than five hours each night. A comparable outcome was also obtained when sleeping for longer than eight hours. However, men were less sensitive to excessive sleeping.
Another study found that people with insomnia had higher triglyceride levels and notably lower HDL cholesterol levels. On the other hand, people who sleep for at least eight hours per night have greater HDL cholesterol levels, raising the need for effective sleep apnea therapies in the contemporary setting.
The results of both studies were identical, suggesting that lack of sleep raises LDL cholesterol levels. Less than six hours of sleep every night significantly elevates a person’s chance of cardiovascular disease.
The link between cholesterol and sleep also affects young adults. Researchers found that lack of sleep increased cravings for foods high in cholesterol, decreased physical activity, and increased stress levels. It’s interesting to note that these groups’ cholesterol levels improve with each additional hour of sleep.
The authors of most of these studies explain how other lifestyle choices also affect cholesterol levels. In addition to having bad sleep patterns, some of these individuals smoked, ate poorly, or exercised insufficiently, which may have increased their risk.
Sleep Duration & Cholesterol Levels
The length of sleep has a favorable relationship with total cholesterol levels. The total HDL cholesterol ratio was higher in people who slept more soundly and for more extended periods.
Higher total cholesterol was also linked to less sleep fragmentation. Some of these relationships revealed important age-related interactions. Those under the age of 65 were primarily responsible for the correlation between time spent in bed and the total/HDL ratio, whereas people 70 years of age or over were most strongly associated with the association between sleep fragmentation and total cholesterol levels.
The vital hormones in your body become out of balance if you don’t get enough sleep, causing the stress hormone, cortisol, and the hunger hormone, ghrelin, to be produced in high numbers. Also, this lessens the production of leptin, which is in charge of controlling your body weight. Obesity results from this because it raises triglyceride and HDL levels.
In epidemiological research, short sleep duration, complaints of poor sleep quality, and sleep disturbances have been linked to low-grade chronic inflammation-related metabolic disorders, including cardiovascular illnesses, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and type 2 diabetes mellitus.
As we showed, patients with OSA had a more significant percentage of dyslipidemia than those without OSA. Only LDL was consistently connected to OSA among the different serum lipid components.
Blood pressure and cholesterol can increase as a result of sleep deprivation. One study discovered that males who slept for fewer than six hours had increased LDL cholesterol. Moreover, LDL cholesterol levels were lower in females who slept almost as much or less than the males in the study, showing that men and women experience sleep differently. There’s also no denying that persons who are obese frequently have higher cholesterol levels.
Treatment of High Cholesterol & Sleep Abnormalities
For both sleep abnormalities and high cholesterol, various treatments can be suggested. For instance, lifestyle alterations and medication can lower cholesterol levels in people.
You can take various steps to prevent heart disease and excessive cholesterol and develop healthy sleep patterns. One of the main issues is diet. Avoid foods high in saturated fat, such as highly processed and fatty meats, butter, cheese, and other fatty dairy items, to help manage your cholesterol level. Many foods like almonds, avocados, olive oil, and oats can reduce LDL cholesterol.
Another critical component is exercise. Exercise three to four times per week, which can be achieved by getting at least 40 minutes of moderate walking or other activity throughout your day. If walking isn’t your thing, try jogging, swimming, cycling, or another exercise that increases your heart rate.
3) Weight Management
Managing one’s weight is especially important for those with metabolic syndrome, which is characterized by high triglyceride levels, low HDL cholesterol levels, and obesity, with a waist circumference of over 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women. These conditions raise the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Work on achieving a moderate weight if you are overweight to help lower your LDL cholesterol levels.
4) Stress Management
People can incorporate stress-relieving activities into their day since chronic stress can result in elevated LDL and decreased HDL cholesterol levels. They include engaging in exercise, meditation, and socializing.
5) Quitting Smoking
Doctors may prescribe medications to control cholesterol levels. There are several options:
- Statins, which prevent the liver from producing LDL cholesterol
- Bile acid sequestrants, which reduce how much fat the body receives from meals
- Cholesterol absorption inhibitors, which lower triglycerides and lessen cholesterol absorption from food
- Nicotinic acid elevates HDL cholesterol while lowering triglycerides and LDL cholesterol
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