Today, millions of men, women, and children are considered overweight or obese. Being overweight is a major risk factor for serious health problems later in life, including high cholesterol. Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that can build up and clog blood vessels, dangerously increasing the risk of heart attacks, heart disease, strokes, and other medical conditions.

There are two types of cholesterol, LDL and HDL. LDL cholesterol is known as bad cholesterol since it is made up of fat. HDL cholesterol, known as the good cholesterol, helps remove excess cholesterol from the body. It’s a high LDL cholesterol level that increases the risk of future medical problems. One of the ways to lower LDL cholesterol in the body is to lose weight.

Losing weight can be challenging. It requires determination and discipline. Part of the challenge is the prevalence of high-fat foods in today’s society. Oily, greasy foods tempt the taste buds and the wallet since they are often among the least expensive food items. Eating these foods may taste good, but is extremely unhealthy. Too much fat in the diet will lead to weight gain and can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood.

Experts encourage a diet that is lower in certain kinds of fats. Just as there are good and bad cholesterols, there are also good and bad fats. Saturated and trans fats are considered the bad kind, and it’s these that should be decreased to help lower LDL cholesterol. Saturated fats are often found in animal products, like meats, eggs, and dairy, and trans fats are found in many greasy foods. Reducing the number of bad fats in the diet will lead to weight loss as well. A healthy diet should also include a lot of fiber, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, poultry, and fish at least twice a week.

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats may sound bad, but they are actually considered good fats. These fats can be found in canola oil, olive oil, seeds, and nuts.

While a healthier diet will help lower cholesterol over time, studies have shown that focusing on diet alone will lower the good cholesterol as well. However, combining a better diet with regular physical activity has been shown to lead to weight loss as well as a reduction in bad cholesterol and an increase in good cholesterol.

There are also various medications available to help lower cholesterol. These are options that should be discussed with a doctor. It is important to consider, though, that without other lifestyle changes, medication may not be effective. If medication is an option, experts recommend it as part of a regimen that includes a healthy diet and exercise.