Does Stress Cause High Cholesterol?

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Ask the experts

My cholesterol has gone through the roof since my physical last year! Could stress at work have caused it to spike?

Doctor's response

Several studies actually do suggest that psychological stress can trigger an increase in blood cholesterol levels. The exact reasons why stress is associated with a raised cholesterol level are not fully understood. One possible explanation is that stressful situations cause the body to attempt to produce more energy (fatty acids and glucose), requiring increased production of LDL ("bad" cholesterol) by the liver.

Another significant factor is that stress tends to increase unhealthy behaviors and lifestyle choices, including eating an unhealthy diet, smoking, and inactivity, all of which are associated with higher cholesterol levels and an increased risk of heart disease.

Medically reviewed by Robert Bargar, MD; Board Certification in Public Health & General Preventive Medicine


"Management of elevated low density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-C) in primary prevention"

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Reviewed on 7/11/2017