Age and Being Female: Women between 20 and 60 develop gallstones three times more often than men. By age 65, 25 percent of American women have gallstones. Estrogen seems to play a role, because it increases the concentration of cholesterol in bile.
Pregnancy, especially multiple pregnancies close together, contributes to gall stone formation, due to the rise in estrogen levels.
Oral contraceptives: The estrogen in oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy affect gallstone disease similarly.
Family history of gallstones: No gallstone genes have been yet identified. But because obesity and diet/eating habits tends to be similar within families, the family history is important in diagnosing the disease.
Obesity: Women with a body mass index (BMI) over 30 have twice the risk of gallstone disease as women who are not overweight. Estrogen is present in fat cells, which can overload the body with this hormone, It also appears that being overweight increases the cholesterol component of bile, while also slowing down the emptying of the gallbladder.
Rapid weight loss: After prolonged fasting or gastric by-pass surgery, increased cholesterol can move from the fatty tissue and build up in the bile, leading to both diminished gallbladder contractions and the formation of stones.
Western diet high in fat: Gallstones, especially cholesterol gallstones, are less common in vegetarians, and almost non-existent in some ethnic groups.
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