Cholesterol is a fat-based, waxy substance that is produced by our liver and also introduced to the body from animal based foods. Our bodies need cholesterol for the production of sex hormones, vitamin D, and digestive enzymes. But too much cholesterol can be bad. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), high cholesterol is often the result of lifestyle choices such as diet, combined with genetic factors. High cholesterol does not produce any symptoms you can see or feel, but it can increase your risk of stroke and heart disease by the plaques building up in your blood vessels causing narrowing or atherosclerosis.
People who are obese and overweight tend to have a higher risk of having high cholesterol levels due to many lifestyle choices, such as diet and a sedentary lifestyle. Bariatric patients are in an ideal situation to reduce their potentially high cholesterol levels with the changes in their diet, weight loss, and addition of an exercise regime that come with gastric sleeve, gastric bypass, and lap band surgery.
High cholesterol is diagnosed with a simple blood test. Treatment, however, can be trickier. Some people can lower their cholesterol through lifestyle changes, some require medication, and some need a combination of both. If you have high cholesterol, you need to follow your doctor’s advice.
There are ways to help reduce your cholesterol naturally that also fit in nicely with the tenets of weight loss surgery diets. We’ve outlined several below:
- Avoid trans fats- These can be found in margarine, vegetable shortening, partially hydrogenated oils, fried foods, and some pre-packaged prepared foods. Bariatric surgery patients should be avoiding these foods, instead opting for healthier oils like olive oil, and baking, roasting, steaming, or grilling instead of frying.
- Reducing intake of saturated fats- This includes many cuts of beef, poultry skin, butter, and palm oil. Beef is often not well tolerated especially early on in a post bariatric surgery diet, and weight loss surgery patients are encouraged to eat skinless poultry, and use small amounts of healthy oils in place of butter.
- Consume more healthy fats (such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats)- These fats can be found in avocados, nuts, seeds, fish, and plant based oils. For bariatric patients who are still in the first year after their gastric sleeve, gastric bypass, or gastric band surgery, nuts and seeds may not be well tolerated. Discuss with your bariatric surgeon and/or bariatric dietitian.
- Eat more soluble fiber- Soluble fiber is found in legumes (like beans), whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. This can be tricky for gastric sleeve, gastric bypass, or lap band patients. While vegetables (and fruits to a lesser extent) are encouraged on a post op bariatric diet, carbohydrate rich foods like whole grains and beans should be monitored. The total carbohydrate intake in a post bariatric surgery diet should be kept below a limit (often 50 grams per day), but bariatric patients can prioritize their carbohydrate intake to include beans and whole grains over other carbohydrates with less soluble fiber.
- Get regular exercise- Exercise can help reduce bad cholesterol and also help raise good cholesterol while it helps you lose weight and strengthen your muscles. Bariatric patients are encouraged to incorporate exercise into their lifestyles after being cleared to exercise by Dr. Shillingford, or their bariatric surgeon. Walking, jogging, biking, swimming, resistance exercises, yoga, kickboxing, or whatever exercise you enjoy should become a regular part of your lifestyle to help reduce cholesterol and promote weight loss after bariatric surgery.
If you think you are at risk of having high cholesterol, discuss with your doctor. Testing for high cholesterol is generally quick and easy, and knowing the results can get you on the path to better health.
For people with obesity or overweight who are unable to successfully lose weight, bariatric surgery may be an option. To schedule a free informational session with Dr. Shillingford, MD, PA and learn more about if gastric sleeve, gastric bypass, or lap band surgery is right for you, call Dr. Shillingford’s office today at (561) 483-8840. Dr. Shillingford is a Boca Raton based surgeon specializing in advanced laparoscopic and obesity surgery.