Cholesterol is a fat produced in the liver and found in certain foods of animal origin, such as dairy products, eggs and meat. The body needs some cholesterol to function, but excess cholesterol can increase the risk of developing heart disease. There are many factors that contribute to high cholesterol, some of which may or may not be controlled.
After the menopause, women’s levels of LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) increase, as does their risk of heart disease. The risk can increase with age, for example, men over 45 and women over 55 have a higher risk of high cholesterol and heart disease.
The risk of high cholesterol can increase if a close relative has high cholesterol or early heart disease (before the age of 65). You can also inherit a genetic disease called familial hypercholesterolemia, which causes high LDL levels from a young age. It’s quite rare, but if left untreated, it can get worse over time.