What causes high cholesterol?

Although causes can be hereditary or age-related, the most common reason for high cholesterol is an unhealthy lifestyle:

  • Unhealthy eating habits: eating a lot of bad fats (baked, deep-fried, and processed fatty foods) will raise low-density lipoproteins (LDL), also known as “bad cholesterol”. 
  • Lack of physical activity: lots of time spent sitting down and little physical exercise lowers your high-density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as “good cholesterol”.
  • Smoking lowers your HDL (good cholesterol) and raises your LDL (bad cholesterol).

The evidence demonstrates that the best way to prevent high cholesterol is through healthy lifestyle choices. Finding a meditation technique that you can practice regularly and that will reduce stress, such as Transcendental Meditation, is one of them.

Risks of high cholesterol

Cholesterol is needed to to produce vitamin D and hormones, and to help with digestion. It is created in the liver, then distributed throughout the body via the bloodstream. However, when there is too much cholesterol in your blood, it can combine with other substances to form plaque. This plaque can build up and stick to the walls of the arteries (atherosclerosis), which can lead to

, where the arteries become narrow or even blocked.

This can also cause blood clots, blocking the flow of blood to the heart, which means a high risk of heart attack. Plaque can build up in other arteries too, including those that bring blood to the brain and limbs. In this way, high cholesterol levels can lead to carotid artery disease, stroke, and peripheral arterial disease.

But, the TM technique has been shown to lower cholesterol and improve overall heart health. Let's take a closer look at how it does this, and the scientific research to back it up.

“My cholesterol taken over a year ago was very high. So I’m amazed that in a short time of this meditation my cholesterol has improved greatly

Becky, May 2022

How does TM lower bad cholesterol?

Multiple scientific research studies show that TM practice results in significant improvements to heart health, including a study published in Circulation in 2012. Researchers found a 48% reduced risk of

, strokes, and death in subjects practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique.¹ The researchers concluded that “the TM program significantly reduced risk for mortality, myocardial infarction, and stroke in coronary heart disease patients. These changes were associated with lower blood pressure and psychosocial stress factors.”

During TM practice, you enter a state of profound calm. The deep rest provided to the nervous system allows the mind and body to heal itself from within.

So in turn, it's possible to recover from the accumulated stresses of daily life, as well as more significant mental and physical traumas that take time to process.

Additionally, there is specific research revealing a positive effect on cholesterol levels. In a study published in 2012 in the Journal of Human Stress, people with high cholesterol who practiced the TM technique showed an important reduction in cholesterol levels, compared to a control group. The conclusion of the study stated: "Paired comparisons showed a significant (p<0.005) reduction in fasting serum cholesterol levels of those subjects who practiced meditation."²

Researchers found a reduction in adrenergic activity—processes caused by adrenaline such as increased blood pressure and heart rate—which in turn led to lower cholesterol in the participants of the study.

This reduction in adrenergic activity is consistent with other research on TM which has demonstrated the special state of deep rest that is accessed. The calming sensations experienced while meditating in fact continue beyond the period of practice, as the sympathetic nervous system becomes more relaxed, and unnecessary “fight-or-flight” responses are switched off.

Other studies on the effects of the TM technique have demonstrated lower blood pressure, hypertension, stress, and

. These combined factors are also likely to complement healthy cholesterol levels. 

A final key point of the relationship between TM and lower cholesterol is that the stress-busting effects of TM practice also help to combat the root causes of high cholesterol.

People who practice TM regularly are more likely to avoid the unhealthy lifestyle choices listed above. Because they are less stressed, meditators tend to:

  • Quit smoking more easily
  • Reach for healthier foods
  • Have more energy for exercise
  • Take better care of themselves

If you'd like to lead a healthier lifestyle and reduce your cholesterol levels, consider adding the Transcendental Meditation technique to your routine.

"Really enjoying the practice of TM. I feel more energy and happiness throughout my day. I look forward to my daily time to meditate. Best decision ever!" Deborah, March 2024

Find an instructor

There are 170+ TM Centers in the U.S. where you can learn to meditate, and discover a wide range of benefits beyond improved physical health.

By Carlos Cervantes, May 30 2024


  1. Schneider RH, Grim CE, Rainforth MV et al. Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes 5 (2012): 750–8.
  2. Cooper MJ, Aygen MM. Journal of Human Stress 5 (1979): 24-7