Lose excess weight and you’re more likely to have healthy cholesterol levels. If you struggle with obesity and cholesterol, you should know that weight loss surgery tackles both problems.
After bariatric surgery, many people’s cholesterol numbers normalize. They are able to discontinue taking medications such as statins.
What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol, a fat-like substance, produces vitamin D, hormones and other substances the body requires. Humans need some of this waxy substance, but too much of the wrong type clogs arteries.
The body produces all the cholesterol it needs. Eating saturated fats can contribute to excess cholesterol. Inactivity, extra pounds and heredity also play a part in unhealthy levels.
Cholesterol comes in two varieties: low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). Total blood, or serum, cholesterol is the sum of LDL, HDL and 20 percent of total triglycerides. Triglycerides are a type of fat carried in the blood.
What’s in a Number?
Cholesterol is measured by milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood. After getting a blood test, speak to your physician about the results. Healthy numbers depend on whether you are at high risk for heart disease and whether you’re taking cholesterol-lowering medication.
Experts recommend striving for high HDL and low LDL. The following general guidelines for cholesterol levels come from the National Institutes of Health.
Total cholesterol: A total of 200 and below is considered desirable. More important are the numbers that make up the total.
HDL: 60 mg/dL and higher protects against heart disease. The higher your levels for HDL, the better. Why? HDL sweeps LDL from the bloodstream to the liver. LDL causes plaque to build in arteries. The liver rids the body of cholesterol.
LDL: Less than 100 mg/dL is optimal. Too much LDL puts you at risk of a heart attack or stroke, but some experts believe it’s more important to focus on obtaining high HDL levels.
Triglycerides: A normal level is 150 mg/dL. The body converts calories it doesn’t burn into triglycerides and stores it for energy. High levels of this blood fat are caused by obesity, inactivity, smoking, alcohol consumption or a high-carbohydrate diet.
If a test shows you have unhealthy levels of cholesterol, you may be able to improve your numbers by maintaining a healthy weight. Bariatric surgery is the most successful weight loss strategy for those who are severely obese.