Cholesterol is a small molecule that helps with basic cellular functions. It strengthens the membrane and helps generate vitamins such as Vitamin A, D, E and K. Cholesterol is vital to simple body processes, like osmosis (Appendix 1).

It reduces a cell’s permeability to water, ions and polar molecules, so if a harmful molecule approaches a cell, the cholesterol acts like a gatekeeper, preventing the molecule from entering the cell.

The Different Types of Cholesterol

There are two types of cholesterol: HDL (High Density Lipoproteins) and LDL (Low Density Lipoproteins). Lipoproteins means that the cholesterol travel through the blood with the help of proteins, so the fatty heads (lipid) of the cholesterol is on the inside, while the ​protein​ tail is on the outside.

Why Too Much Cholesterol Can Be Bad

HDLs are known as the “good” cholesterol, while LDLs are known as the “bad” one. This is because LDLs can build up in your arteries, which can harden and cause a hard substance, called plaque.

Plaque can stiffen the artery, and block blood flow to and from the heart. This can lead to a serious heart condition called atherosclerosis, and if untreated, can cause a heart attack.

HDL, however, is the “good” kind of cholesterol, because it can carry the excess LDL back into the liver to be removed from the body.

So, when a doctor says you have high cholesterol, they’re talking about the amounts of LDLs in your blood!

The Causes of High Cholesterol Levels

There are many causes of high cholesterol levels. Some can be fixed while others aren’t as easy to fix.

High cholesterol levels are caused by:

  • Genes – if your family has a history of high cholesterol, it’s most likely you’ll have it too
  • Your diet and lifestyle – most saturated fats and processed foods are loaded with LDLs, while unsaturated fats contain HDLs.
  • Your age – the older you get, the higher your cholesterol levels will be, as your level of activity decreases.
  • Smoking – smoking damages the walls of your blood vessels, so it’s more likely that fatty substances will accumulate in them. It can also reduce the level of HDLs in your body.
  • Diabetes – high blood sugar is an indication of high LDL levels since sugary foods are a form of saturated fat.

The Link Between High Cholesterol and Fatty Liver

High cholesterol has been found to be not only associated with fatty liver but it can cause worsening of fatty liver and cause further liver damage. In a study from University of Southern California the researchers found that high cholesterol was associated with progression of fatty liver 2 liver cirrhosis and cancer. Their study effectively showed that a high fat, high sugar diet was a recipe for progression of fatty liver disease.

If you would like to know more about how to fix fatty liver, you might want to watch this video:

How to Treat High Cholesterol Levels

There are simple ways to treat high cholesterol levels. Most of it is a lifestyle change, and if it’s vital to discuss this with your doctor who might suggest drug treatments.

Here are some of the lifestyle changes you can make:

  1. Eat healthier foods

Most cuts of red meats like beef and pork contain high levels of saturated fats. Dairy products like cheese and eggs also contain a lot of saturated fats. So, try to cut down your intake, or find low-dairy products that contain mono-saturated (less LDL) fats.

Cut down on fried foods, as they contain a lot of trans-fats, which increase your LDL levels, and decrease your HDL levels.

Eat foods with high Omega-3 fatty acids. These foods don’t affect LDL levels, but they do increase HDL levels, so your liver can get to work! Some examples include salmon, flaxseed and walnuts.

Eat soluble fibre. Soluble fibre can help reduce your LDL levels. So, eating oats, fruits, beans, and vegetables will help.

  1. Exercise

Scientists, nutritionists and anyone who loves being healthy will always tell you “exercise more”! It’s an all-round solution! By exercising you are increasing your HDL levels.

Exercises can stimulate enzymes to help carry the excess LDL away. The smaller the protein particles, the easier it is to start building up plaque in your arteries. Exercising also increases the size of the protein particles that carry LDLs. So, by exercising, you can prevent these proteins from burying their way into the lining of your blood vessels.

It’s suggested that at least 30 minutes of moderate to high intensity exercise can help reduce cholesterol levels:

“​A 2002 study by researchers at Duke University Medical Center found that more intense exercise is actually better than moderate exercise for lowering cholesterol. In a study of ​overweight​, sedentary people who did not change their diet, the researchers found that those who got moderate exercise (the equivalent of 12 miles of walking or jogging per week) did lower their LDL level somewhat. But the people who did more vigorous exercise (the equivalent of 20 miles of jogging a week) lowered it even more.”

  1. Quit smoking

For those smokers out there, it’s better if you quit. By quitting, your HDL levels will rise, because they aren’t being suppressed by the toxins that enter your system.

  1. Drink moderate levels of alcohol

Yes, scientists have proven alcohol is bad for you, but drinking moderate alcohol can be a benefit. It’s proven that some alcoholic drinks, like red wine, have had an impact on HDL levels. With the antioxidants and present in the drinks, more HDLs are produced, so having one drink a day can help, just don’t overdo it.

  1. Lose weight

A better expression would be to control your weight. Even if you’re just slightly above a healthy weight, that can contribute to your high cholesterol levels. Evaluate your lifestyle and your diet.

Cut out or cut down on fried food, salty snacks, and desserts (including candy and pastries). If you’re out and about all day, every day, try packing a healthy homemade lunch, that way you’re cutting out the processed meats and fried portions that could be adding to your LDL levels.

If you would like to discuss some options for weight loss such as gastric balloon, medications, or even weight-loss surgery such as gastric sleeve surgery or gastric bypass surgery, you can contact our practice or book a complimentary, obligation-free 15-minute  chat with our patient advisor here:

We also offer Healthy Habits Coaching for anyone who may be looking at developing healthy habits for long term lifestyle change. You can book a FREE discovery call with our coaches here:


References​ – National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute is a medical service in America, dedicated to informing the public about certain health and lifestyle conditions. Accessed for the structure of cholesterol and the conditions that may be caused by too much cholesterol in the body.​ – Heart UK is a health charity, dedicated to creating awareness to the causes and effects of high cholesterol. They provide services that help educate the public about the dangers and benefits of different types of cholesterol.​ – Mayo Clinic is an American medical organisation, with a range of services, from treating patients to educating medical professionals and the general public. They even have research labs that contribute to scientific research into medicine.​ – The University of Michigan is an educational institute, specialising in medicine.​ – WebMD is an American medical organisation that help educate the general public of America. They also provide services that can help them to find local doctors. – Hepatic damage caused by long-term high cholesterol intake induces a dysfunctional restorative macrophage population in experimental NASH