Does losing weight lower cholesterol?

High cholesterol is common in the United States. Reaching a moderate weight may decrease a person’s cholesterol levels and lower the risks of certain cardiovascular conditions.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claim that close to 94 million in the U.S. over 20 years old have high cholesterol.

A person can experience an increase in their blood cholesterol levels if they are overweight or have obesity. This is due to changes in the processes related to fat metabolism. Therefore, reaching and maintaining a moderate weight can help to decrease an individual’s cholesterol levels.

This article examines how high cholesterol is linked to obesity, how to lower cholesterol levels, and tips for reaching a moderate weight.

Cholesterol levels

To assess if an individual has high cholesterol, a physician needs to collect blood samples to check the amount of cholesterol present.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, physicians use the following levels to determine if an individual has desirable or high cholesterol:

  • Desirable: less than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) of blood.
  • Borderline high: 200–239 mg/dl.
  • High: 240 mg/dl or more.

Cholesterol is essential for the body to work, although too much low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol can lead to a buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries. These fatty deposits can increase a person’s risk of developing conditions, such as atherosclerosis, heart attack, and peripheral arterial disease.

Risk factors

Risk factors for high cholesterol include:

  • being overweight or having obesity
  • smoking
  • having a family history of high cholesterol
  • living a sedentary lifestyle
  • having high blood pressure
  • being male older than 45 years old or female over 55 years old
  • having type 2 diabetes

High cholesterol and obesity

A person with excess weight or obesity may also have higher LDL levels. LDL cholesterol changes how the body processes different forms of lipids, or fats. This includes cholesterol and triglycerides — another type of lipid found in the body made in the liver from free fatty acids and glucose, or sugar.

When an individual is overweight, the body produces more triglycerides. Abnormalities in lipid metabolism are common in people with obesity.

Maintaining a moderate weight also decreases a person’s risk of insulin resistance. This is where the body does not properly respond to the hormone insulin. This response increases the amount of free fatty acids in the liver, which increases triglyceride levels.

If a person has excess weight, they have higher levels of pro-inflammatory compounds. Some of these pro-inflammatory compounds change how the body regulates lipid metabolism. This can cause an increase in triglycerides, and therefore, blood cholesterol levels.

How to lower cholesterol

The first step an individual can take to lower cholesterol is reaching or maintaining a moderate weight. Reaching a moderate weight decreases triglycerides in the liver and the amount of cholesterol it makes.

Individuals who smoke tobacco products should also try to reduce and quit this habit. Smoking lowers the levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDLs) — the good cholesterol. HDL usually protects against fatty buildup in the artery walls. However, smoking damages the arteries, and cholesterol collects in these areas.

Physicians may also prescribe a certain type of medication known as statins to lower cholesterol. Statins are the most commonly prescribed medication for reducing cholesterol levels.

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