One of the benefits of a weight loss diet is that it is likely to be beneficial to your cholesterol count. It’s common for a healthier diet which includes more unprocessed foods and “good fats” to lower cholesterol levels.
In particular, you are likely to see your LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein), which is the “bad” and threatening-to-your-health cholesterol drop, if you follow the diet guidelines we suggest at here dietMD Hawaii.
What is High Cholesterol?
High cholesterol usually describes a condition in which three types of fats in your bloodstream are measured to be out of balance.
- LDL, or “bad cholesterol”, is too high.
- HDL, or “good cholesterol”, is too low.
- Triglicerides are too high.
If you are overweight or obese, you are significantly more likely to have high cholesterol.
Why is LDL Cholesterol Bad?
LDL Cholesterol deposits thicken the walls of the arteries, hindering the passage of blood and affecting the structure of the arterial walls. This is also known as atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.
It occurs when fat, cholesterol, and other substances build up in the walls of arteries and form hard structures called plaques. Over time, these plaques can damage or block the arteries and cause significant problems with your cardiovascular system. High cholesterol is also commonly associated with high blood pressure (hypertension).
Reducing high cholesterol reduces your risk of heart attack or stroke.
Don’t I Need Cholesterol?
Yes, your body needs some cholesterol to build membranes, cell walls, nerve sheaths, manufacture bile and produce hormones. Cholesterol is an essential fat that your body gets from your diet, and also produces in your liver. It’s carried in your blood by proteins called lipoproteins that pick up and carry cholesterol. The two types of lipoproteins are HGL and LDL.
However, when there’s too much LDL cholesterol, some is deposited in the walls of arteries. The body responds by sending white blood cells to try to clear the LDL, but the white blood cells convert the LDL to an oxidized form that is toxic, so more white blood cells respond… and inflammation occurs. Over time LDL and other cells collect in the area and become a plaque deposit.
To learn more about how cholesterol functions in your body, you can view animations on the American Heart Association website.
Isn’t There Good Cholesterol?
Yes, “good” cholesterol is HDL (high-density lipoprotein), and your doctor will work with you to adjust lifestyle and diet factors to increase the ratio of HDL to LDL. HDL is considered “good” because it helps remove LDL which causes arterial plaque. Because of this, a healthy level of HDL is believed to help protect against heart attack and stroke. Low levels of HDL cholesterol increase the risk of heart disease.
Losing weight typically improves the amount of HDL in your bloodstream. One study found that for every kilogram (2.2 pounds) of weight a person loses, they may be able to raise their HDL by .35 mg/dL. Quitting smoking also helps HDL levels, increasing a person’s HDL by an average of 4 mg/dL.
Diet alone can lower LDL levels up to 30%, and adding exercise improves these results even further. In some cases, of course, medication is necessary, depending upon your age, weight, whether you are diabetic, blood pressure, smoking status, genetics, and other factors that can affect your chance of having heart problems.
How Do I Reduce Cholesterol?
The best ways to reduce high cholesterol are to:
- Quit smoking, if you smoke
- Reduce alcohol consumption
- Lose weight, if you are overweight or obese
- Reduce carbohydrates, if your diet is high in them
- Eat more fiber
- Exercise more
- Drink more water
- Eat more vegetables
- Eat less sugar
- Avoid bad fats (especially trans fats and large amounts of saturated fats)
- Choose healthy fats
Everything on that list will also help you lose weight and maintain a healthy weight!