Your blood cholesterol level has a lot of influence on the development of heart disease. Being overweight tends to increase your cholesterol levels, as well as your risk of heart disease.Though being a healthy weight does have positive benefits for your overall health, it does not necessarily mean you won’t have problems with cholesterol.
The body requires some cholesterol, which is a fat-like substance, for certain functions, but when there's too much, it poses health risks. Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL cholesterol, is linked to plaque buildup in the arteries, which slows down blood flow. For this reason, it’s the type that puts you at risk for heart disease. High-density lipoprotein, or HDL cholesterol, helps to remove the bad cholesterol from your body; thus, high HDL offers protection against heart disease. Triglycerides, another type of fat in the blood, can also contribute to plaque and heart disease.
Cholesterol and Weight
Many things, one of which is weight, affect cholesterol levels. Losing weight can help lower LDL levels and triglyceride levels, while raising your HDL level. Other factors, such as a diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol and a lack of physical activity, also raise LDL cholesterol levels. Those factors also have a tendency to increase body weight. Reducing the amount of saturated fat you eat can help lower your LDL cholesterol. On the flip side, increasing physical activity can raise HDL levels and lower LDL levels.
Other Factors Affecting Cholesterol
While you can control your diet, weight and physical activity, you can’t control other factors that will impact your likelihood of high cholesterol. As people age, their cholesterol level increases, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health. Women usually have lower total cholesterol levels than men before they reach menopause, but that changes after menopause. In addition, high cholesterol can run in families.
If you need to lower your cholesterol, MayoClinic.com recommends that you lose weight, eat heart-healthy foods, exercise regularly, quit smoking and drink alcohol in moderation. A weight loss of 5 to 10 percent of body weight can reduce cholesterol levels. A healthier diet would include unsaturated fats, elimination of trans fats, and more whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Regular exercise, whether you are overweight or not, can help lower blood cholesterol and raise the good cholesterol. Quitting smoking and moderate use of alcohol have been linked to higher levels of the “good” cholesterol, HDL.
Lucy D'Berry has been a writer for nearly 30 years, specializing in nutrition and health issues, as well as in education and government. She has written for daily newspapers and edits a national magazine. She has earned both a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in the communications field.