Can Anxiety Increase Bad Cholesterol (LDL)?

Written by Jim Folk
Medically reviewed by Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated June 14, 2022

anxiety can increase bad cholesterol

My doctor said my bad cholesterol was high. It seems impossible because I eat very well and avoid foods high in cholesterol. The only thing it could be is that my anxiety has been high over the last year. Can anxiety increase bad cholesterol?

Yes, anxiety can increase bad cholesterol.

Anxiety activates the stress response. The stress response secretes stress hormones into the bloodstream, where they bring about specific physiological, psychological, and emotional changes that prepare the body for immediate action.[1][2]

You can read more about the many changes caused by the stress response in our “Stress Response” article.

Since stress responses push the body beyond its balance point (equilibrium), stress responses stress the body. As such, anxiety stresses the body.

Regarding your question, research shows stress can increase bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein - LDL).[3][4][5][6][7][8]

Consequently, the more anxious you are, the more likely your bad cholesterol will rise.

You can reduce bad cholesterol by continuing to eat a healthy diet, reducing stress, increasing rest, regular deep relaxation, regular exercise, getting good sleep, and dealing with your anxiety issues.

In fact, research shows that regular exercise, regular deep relaxation, and getting good sleep are natural and practical strategies that can go a long way to reducing bad cholesterol.[9][10][11]

As well, dealing with your anxiety issues can also greatly help reduce bad cholesterol.

Working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to overcome issues with anxiety.

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The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist, coach, or counselor is the most effective way to address anxiety and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed – which we call the underlying factors of anxiety – a struggle with anxiety unwellness can return again and again. Dealing with the underlying factors of anxiety is the best way to address problematic anxiety.

Additional Resources

Return to our Anxiety Frequent Questions archive.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and therapy for anxiety disorder and its symptoms, including: Can Anxiety Increase Bad Cholesterol (LDL)?

References

1. Godoy, Livea, et al. "A Comprehensive Overview on Stress Neurobiology: Basic Concepts and Clinical Implications." Frontiers In Behavioral Neuroscience, 3, July 2018.

2. Teixeira, Renata Roland, et al. “Chronic Stress Induces a Hyporeactivity of the Autonomic Nervous System in Response to Acute Mental Stressor and Impairs Cognitive Performance in Business Executives.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2015.

3. Tennant, Forest. "The Physiologic Effects of Pain on the Endocrine System." Pain and Therapy, 20 Aug 2013.

4. Maduka, Ignatius C., et al. "The relationship between serum cortisol, adrenaline, blood glucose and lipid profile of undergraduate students under examination stress." African Health Sciences, 15 Mar 2015.

5. Assadi, Seyedeh Negar. "What are the effects of psychological stress and physical work on blood lipid profiles?" Medicine, 5 May 2017.

6. Silvennoinen, Reija, et al. "Acute Psychological Stress Accelerates Reverse Cholesterol Transport via Corticosterone-Dependent Inhibition of Intestinal Cholesterol Absorption." Circulation Research, 28 Aug 2021.

7. Grant, Nina, et al. "Social Isolation and Stress-related Cardiovascular, Lipid, and Cortisol Responses." Annals of Behavioral Medicine. 5 Feb 2009.

8. Sara, Jaskanwal Deep Singh, et al. "Mental Stress and Its Effects on Vascular Health." Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 1 May 2022.

9. Krittanawong, Chayakrit, et al. "Meditation and Cardiovascular Health in the US." The American Journal of Cardiology, 15 Sep 2020.

10. Alghamdi, Mansour Saleh M., et al. "Effectiveness of Low to Moderate Physical Exercise Training on the Level of Low-Density Lipoproteins: A Systematic Review." BioMed Research International, 1 Nov 2018.

11. Kaneita, Yoshitaka, et al. "Associations of Usual Sleep Duration with Serum Lipid and Lipoprotein Levels." SLEEP, 1 May 2008.