What Causes Cholesterol Numbers to Spike Upward?

Cholesterol is a type of fat that's made by the body and is also contained in many foods. While cholesterol is a normal and necessary part of your body's daily function, too much cholesterol can build up in your arteries, increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease. While cholesterol levels usually build up over years due to poor eating habits, lack of exercise and other unhealthy behaviors, there are some things that can cause your cholesterol levels to spike over a short period of time.

Eggs

It's a well-known fact that eggs contain a lot of cholesterol. One egg has about 215mg of cholesterol, more than 70 percent of the recommended daily value of the substance. While limiting yourself to one egg a day is unlikely to have any long-term effect on your cholesterol levels, research cited in an article in the November-December 2008 issue of The Fountain magazine shows that a single egg can cause a short-term spike in cholesterol. The article, written by University of Chicago Department of Radiation and Cellular Oncology research fellow Bulent Aydogan, says that eating one egg can cause a temporary cholesterol spike of 3 to 4mg/dl, although the levels decrease after digestion.

Fat

Both saturated fat and trans fat are known to cause increased cholesterol levels, but most study has focused on their effects of cholesterol over time. However, there is some limited research on the role of fat in short-term cholesterol spikes. For instance, a paper published in the January 14, 2008, issue of the "Journal of the American College of Cardiology," says that eating high-fat foods such as fast-food hamburgers and pizza causes immediate spikes in blood sugar and triglycerides, a kind of cholesterol.

Stress

Too much stress can cause a host of health problems, and studies have shown that stress can cause an increase in your cholesterol levels in a relatively short period of time, especially if you are male. For instance, a study of 127 airline pilots with an average age of 41 showed that the stress of getting going through the license recertification process caused levels of low-density-lipoproteins, the "bad" cholesterol, to increase about 5 percent among the male pilots in the study. However, researchers did not find a similar effect in female pilots.

Medication

Certain drugs can cause modest spikes in your cholesterol levels, especially those containing hormones, such as birth control pills and steroids. According to the Langone Medical Center at New York University, birth control pills with progestin can cause your bad cholesterol levels to spike and your good cholesterol levels to decrease, while pills with estrogen have the opposite effect. Generally, though, this effect is not strong enough to cause health problems, notes NYU.

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