Being overweight is a known risk factor for a number of different lifestyle diseases, including heart disease. Not only that, but it can also be a key indicator for high cholesterol levels that have been found to have a number of detrimental impacts on your health.
So if you’ve been wondering how much does weight loss affect cholesterol or considering trying to lose weight as a method to reduce your high cholesterol, there is no better time than right now.
Understanding High Cholesterol
More than 100 million Americans over the age of 20 have cholesterol that is outside of a healthy range and/or considered high. However, few of those individuals truly understand what that means, let alone the effect it has on their overall health.
Better understanding the components of high cholesterol or dyslipidemia can help you do more to control your cholesterol and benefit from lifestyle measures, like losing weight, to improve your overall health.
To put it simply, a diagnosis of high cholesterol means that you have an imbalance of fats circulating in your blood stream. This fatty substance – cholesterol – serves to metabolize your food and regulate hormones. Doctors breakdown your lipid health profile into three distinct measures:
1. LDL or Low-Density Lipoprotein –
Known as “bad cholesterol,” having too much LDL can put you at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease. This is the type of cholesterol that builds up and forms plaque in your arteries, which can restrict the blood flow to your heart and other major organs.
The higher your LDL, the greater your risk for heart-related complications.
2. HDL or High-Density Lipoprotein –
This form of cholesterol is known as “good cholesterol.” It brings lipids from other parts of your body to your liver to be filtered and removed. High HDL levels indicate a decreased risk of heart disease, while low HDL is an indicator of an increased risk for cardiovascular disease.
3. Triglycerides –
Triglycerides are simply the fat present in your blood. A type of fat that you consume, triglycerides are mostly in vegetable oil and animal fats. High triglycerides can also contribute to plaque buildup in your arteries, so it is also an indication of your risk for heart disease.
High cholesterol is a complex health concern as both genetics and your environment play into your risk of developing an imbalanced lipid profile. If you have a family history of high cholesterol, you are more likely to develop the issue yourself. However, several lifestyle factors, including what you eat and how much you exercise, also contribute to the condition.
The Impact of Losing Weight on Cholesterol Levels
According to a study presented by the American Diabetes Association, losing weight has several significant effects on cholesterol levels. The study found that weight loss significantly increased the breakdown of bad cholesterol, helping lower LDL levels in the blood.
This research also found that weight loss delays the metabolism of good cholesterol and, therefore, improves one’s overall lipid profile.
Another study found what has commonly become known as the “lifestyle effect” on both blood pressure and cholesterol. This research found that measures taken to control weight, including increased exercise and improved diet, not only positively impacts cholesterol levels, but it also helps manage blood pressure and other cardiovascular indicators. The findings included the following:
• Increased weight loss resulted in decreased blood pressure, with an ultimate percentage of decrease at over 10 percent.
• Mass loss equaling 10 percent or more resulted in a 50 percent decrease in blood pressure medication, on average.
• Weight loss between 3 to 9 percent averaged a decrease in high cholesterol by 25 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).
• Loss greater than 10 percent averaged a decrease in high cholesterol of 45 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or more.
• Weight loss of 10 percent or more also reduced diabetes diagnoses – from 30 percent having prediabetes or diabetes to only 4 percent.
Lifestyle Changes to Improve Cholesterol
While any effort you make to decrease your intake and increase your activity level can help, several specific recommendations have been found to have the greatest effect on cholesterol levels. To make the greatest impact on your cholesterol with lifestyle changes:
Changing your diet in specific ways can reduce your cholesterol and improver your overall heart health. A heart healthy diet involves:
• Reducing your intake of saturated fats, including red meat and full-fat dairy products
• Eliminating trans fats, typically referred to as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil
• Increasing your intake of omega-3 fats, found in fish, nuts, and different seeds
• Increasing your soluble fiber by eating foods such as oatmeal, kidney beans, and apples
• Adding whey protein to your diet, which commonly found in dairy products
Making these changes in addition to monitoring your daily intake will help you effectively lower your cholesterol as your work to manage and reduce your weight.
2. Exercise most days of the week.
Exercise is also an important part of the equation for both losing weight and managing your cholesterol. Regular physical activity has actually been found to raise good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol. Make it your goal to work up to 30 minutes of physical activity 5 times a week.
You can receive the same health benefits from adding in different activities you enjoy as following a structured workout program. For example, taking a brisk walk, riding your bike, or playing a sport can help you. They help you get the necessary daily activity you need to control your cholesterol and manage your weight.
The Key to Long-Term Success
The benefits of weight loss related to cholesterol only last as long as you are committed to your regimen to control your weight.
While people take a variety of approaches to reduce their weight and manage their health, studies show that the key to long-term success is having a support system and being held accountable for your lifestyle. This approach gives you the support you need to persist. Even when challenges get in your way, and as the research indicates, it is well worth your effort.