Written on May 22, 2023 by Theresa Vuskovich, DMD. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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Obesity increases your risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D), heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Approximately 94 million Americans have high cholesterol, many of whom are unaware they have it. This article explains the connection between obesity and high cholesterol.
Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance produced by the liver to digest food and create hormones. High cholesterol occurs when your blood contains an excessive amount of cholesterol. Hyperlipidemia and dyslipidemia are other terms used to describe high cholesterol and abnormal lipid levels.
Cholesterol is present in your cell membranes and is essential for your body to function optimally. Your liver makes all the cholesterol your body needs. However, you also absorb cholesterol when you eat meat and dairy products (i.e., dietary cholesterol). High cholesterol can occur if you consume too much cholesterol or have a disorder affecting your cholesterol levels, high cholesterol can occur.[4-6]
A diet high in cholesterol can also lead to obesity. Obesity and high cholesterol are both associated with excessive cholesterol consumption. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a diet as low in cholesterol as possible is recommended.
High cholesterol can lead to atherosclerosis, a condition in which the arteries harden and thicken. Atherosclerosis increases your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
Not all cholesterol is created equal.[3,5] There are different forms of cholesterol, some of which are beneficial. The following are the types of cholesterol [3,5]:
High cholesterol typically has no symptoms, making regular monitoring of your cholesterol levels essential. Everlywell offers a cholesterol and lipid test that you can complete from the comfort of your own home.
The test measures total cholesterol, calculated LDL, HDL, and triglycerides. If you are monitoring your cholesterol levels or are interested in learning what they are, this cholesterol test is for you. Results are provided online in an easy-to-understand format.
The causes of high cholesterol are classified as primary (genetic) or secondary (lifestyle). Individuals with obesity may have both primary and secondary causes contributing to their high cholesterol. Genetic mutations can lead to either excess production of LDL or abnormal clearance of HDL. High cholesterol is also associated with age, with women after menopause having an increased risk.
Secondary causes are the most common cause of high cholesterol. A sedentary lifestyle and a high-calorie diet with excessive amounts of saturated fat, cholesterol, and trans fat can lead to high cholesterol and obesity. Other secondary causes of high cholesterol include hypothyroidism, medications, cigarette smoking, alcohol overuse, and HIV.
Risk factors for high cholesterol include :
While obesity is a risk factor for high cholesterol, individuals who are normal or underweight can also have high cholesterol. However, being overweight or having obesity raises LDL levels and lowers HDL, resulting in dyslipidemia and an increased risk of heart disease.[7,8]
A blood test measures your cholesterol levels. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the following are optimal values of cholesterol :
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Heart Association (AHA), healthy adults need a lipid panel every 4-6 years.[2,7] You may need to take cholesterol tests more frequently, depending on your age and medical conditions.
You should consult a healthcare provider about testing your cholesterol levels. Virtual care visits offered through EverlyWell allow you to talk to a healthcare provider wherever you are. A cholesterol test is recommended for anyone with one of these risk factors:
Obesity-associated high cholesterol is treatable with weight loss, physical activity, and a healthy diet.[8,10] However, factors such as your genetics and age may contribute to high cholesterol and are beyond your control. Medications are available to treat high cholesterol. Consult a healthcare provider to discuss your options.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, you can reduce your risk of obesity and high cholesterol by doing the following :
To help manage weight and weight loss, you can book an appointment with a healthcare provider via Everlywell's telehealth for weight loss option.