Certain factors can contribute to a sudden increase in cholesterol, such as stress, diet, and lifestyle habits, including smoking and alcohol consumption. One must take care to keep their cholesterol levels at a safe level to avoid health complications.

Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance found in cells. It is important for the production of hormones, vitamin D and substances that aid digestion.

High cholesterol can cause heart problems, such as:

cardiac disease
heart attack

There are two different types of cholesterol. High density lipoproteins (HDL) have positive effects, and low density lipoproteins (LDL) have negative effects.
In this article, we look at the causes of a sudden increase in cholesterol levels, other causes of high cholesterol, and the future outlook for someone with high cholesterol.

What causes a sudden spike in cholesterol?

A sudden increase in cholesterol, or cholesterol spike, can occur for any of the following reasons:

1 Stress

A high level of stress is one of the possible causes of a sudden rise in cholesterol. When a person is stressed, their cortisol levels increase significantly. Cortisol can also trigger the release of additional cholesterol. Therefore, when a person is under intense stress, it can dramatically increase their cholesterol. A 2017 study suggests that psychological stress can increase LDL (bad cholesterol) and decrease HDL (good cholesterol).

2 Coffee consumption

If a person consumes a lot of caffeine, it can lead to a spike in cholesterol. Excessive coffee consumption can pose health risks. About four or five cups of coffee a day for adults is usually a safe amount. A 2018 study highlights the link between excessive coffee consumption and high cholesterol. This could be because coffee contains diterpenes. Diterpenes are chemical compounds that can raise cholesterol. Drinking too much coffee all at once can lead to high levels of diterpenes in the body. In some cases, this can lead to a sudden increase in cholesterol.

3 Smoking

A 2020 study explains that smoking leads to a decrease in HDL cholesterol and an increase in LDL. This can happen due to nicotine entering the bloodstream. Nicotine contains a neurotransmitter known as catecholamine, which can raise bad cholesterol in the body. Smoking a large amount of cigarettes over a short period of time can cause a sudden increase in cholesterol.

3 Drugs

Some medications can cause a sudden spike in cholesterol levels.

Medications known to raise cholesterol include:

diuretics, also known as water pills
antiviral drugs
oral estrogens

4 Extreme weight loss

A 2019 article reports three cases where people who lost weight on a medical weight-loss program saw their LDL, or bad cholesterol, levels suddenly rise. An increase in cholesterol can occur with weight loss because cholesterol that is usually found inside fatty tissue enters the bloodstream, causing levels to rise. The faster a person loses weight, the more cholesterol passes into the blood. The increase in cholesterol due to weight loss is probably only temporary.

5 Alcohol

If a person drinks a lot all at once, their cholesterol levels can suddenly rise. This is because alcohol releases triglycerides in the body. Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood. When these levels are too high, for example after drinking large amounts of alcohol, the liver cannot effectively remove cholesterol from the blood. This can lead to an increase in LDL cholesterol. A 2017 study looked at the effects of alcohol on HDL cholesterol. Researchers have found that heavy alcohol consumption quickly lowers HDL levels and increases bad cholesterol.

6 Pregnancy

During pregnancy, hormone levels increase. Increasing these hormones can, in turn, improve cholesterol levels. A sudden increase in cholesterol during pregnancy is known as gestational hypercholesterolemia. According to a 2019 study, cholesterol can rise by around 30-40% in pregnant people.

7 Other causes of high cholesterol

Cholesterol can also rise over time. Here are some contributing factors to high cholesterol:

An unbalanced diet: When people consume saturated fat, their LDL levels can increase. Trans fats can also raise LDL levels. Additionally, a high-sugar diet can cause LDL levels to rise.

Lack of physical activity: A 2020 study suggests that low HDL may improve with physical activity. A lack of physical activity leads to a decrease in these levels of good cholesterol.

Menopause: A 2019 analysis found that cholesterol levels were higher in women who had experienced menopause than in those who had not.

Smoking: In addition to possibly causing a sudden spike in cholesterol, smoking can also cause a gradual decrease in HDL and an increase in LDL. This phenomenon is more common in women.

Genetics: In some cases, people inherit a predisposition to high cholesterol from a parent. Doctors then speak of familial hypercholesterolemia. This phenomenon can be dangerous if the person does not seek treatment, as it can lead to premature atherosclerotic heart disease.

Certain medical conditions: Medical conditions that can raise cholesterol levels include the following:
high blood pressure
kidney disease
liver disease
thyroid problems
The risk of high cholesterol may also increase with age.


A person can manage high cholesterol by eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly. Sometimes a person may need medication to lower their cholesterol level.

Untreated high cholesterol can put a person at riskTrusted Source:

cardiac arrest
diseases of the arteries
coronary disease
heart attack


There are two types of cholesterol: good (HDL) and bad (LDL). When the level of bad cholesterol becomes too high, the person is at risk of developing certain health problems.
Sometimes cholesterol can rise suddenly. This sudden increase in cholesterol is usually temporary. People can manage high cholesterol by eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly.

* criptom strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information given can not replace the opinion of a health professional.