A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to develop gallstones with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing gallstones. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor about what you can do to reduce your risk.

Risk factors include:

Higher Estrogen Levels

Estrogen is a hormone that is naturally higher in women. This is why women tend to get gallstones more frequently than men. Estrogen levels can also be increased with:

  • Oral contraceptives
  • Postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy
  • Pregnancy

Women that are pregnant or taking the above medicines have a higher risk of gallstones.

Increasing Age

As you get older, usually age 40 and over, your risk of gallstones increases.

Obesity and Diet

Having mainly abdominal fat appears to raise your risk of getting gallstones. Being even moderately overweight increases cholesterol in your bile, which may easily form gallstones.

In addition, rapid weight loss or fluctuating weight can increase your risk because low-calorie diets cause the gallbladder to contract less. People who have had gastric-bypass surgery to lose weight quickly also have an increased risk for gallstones.

Lack of Physical Activity

Lack of exercise is associated with a higher risk of developing gallstones. This may be due to fewer contractions of the gallbladder.

Family History of Gallstones

Like many other conditions, gallstones tend to run in families.


Native Americans, Hispanic, and those of northern European descent develop gallstones more frequently than any other ethnicity in the US. Gallstones occur less frequently among Asians and African-Americans.

Diseases of the Small Intestines

Diseases associated with gallstones include:

Long-term IV Nutrition

With some medical care it is necessary to provide nutrition through the veins. The intestines are bypassed and the gallbladder is less stimulated since there is no food to process. This increases your risk of gallstones.


Certain drugs are associated with an increased risk of developing gallstones, including: