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Can You Be Thin and Have High Cholesterol?

Medically reviewed by John Paul Abrina, MD · Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

Written by Mayvilyn Cabigao · Updated Jul 29, 2022

    Can You Be Thin and Have High Cholesterol?

    Most people associate high cholesterol with overweight individuals. However, contrary to popular belief, a person’s weight isn’t always directly linked to their risk of developing high cholesterol. Can you be thin and have high cholesterol?

    High cholesterol and being overweight

    Aside from other factors such as genetics, certain medical conditions, and medications, being overweight is commonly caused by unhealthy eating habits with little to no exercise. Thus, being overweight increases a person’s risk of developing mild to severe diseases.

    One of the most common conditions that overweight individuals develop is high cholesterol. Obesity increases a person’s triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein or bad cholesterol levels while their high-density lipoprotein or good cholesterol remains too low.

    Unhealthy levels of cholesterol make them susceptible to certain cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Although these are all facts, not all people who weigh more than others have high cholesterol. In some instances, people who weigh less are more likely to develop high cholesterol than those who are overweight and obese.

    Can you be thin and have high cholesterol?

    One of the most common misconceptions about high cholesterol is that thin people don’t have it. As mentioned, overweight individuals are more likely to have high cholesterol. However, not all of them have the condition.

    The same goes for a skinny person with high cholesterol. Having a thin body does not mean a person is healthier than those who have bigger builds. Different people with different body types can develop high cholesterol, especially if they’re constantly living an unhealthy lifestyle.

    High cholesterol in skinny people is usually unnoticeable, since their body does not physically show that they are consuming more saturated and trans fat than what their body needs. Most of the time, a skinny person with high cholesterol only becomes aware of their condition if they regularly check their cholesterol level.

    So, can you be thin and have high cholesterol? Yes, no matter what diet and what exercise a person does, even if they are skinny or not, anyone can have high cholesterol.

    What causes high cholesterol in skinny people?

    Having a normal and healthy weight does not always mean that a person is healthy. Here are the factors that make a skinny person or people with normal and healthy weight develop high cholesterol:


    One of the common reasons  individuals develop high cholesterol is due to genetics. Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is a genetic disorder that some people inherit from their parents and first-blood relatives (grandparents), causing them to have high levels of LDL or bad cholesterol.

    FH usually begins at birth or at an early age, but some only start to notice symptoms as they age. If left undiagnosed and untreated, FH can lead to premature heart attack and several cardiovascular diseases.

    Unhealthy diet

    Surely a lot of people can eat whatever they want without gaining weight. But still, no one can stay fit and healthy by eating whatever they want, whenever they want.

    Lean people stay healthy by consuming healthier food choices. However, these healthy alternatives can sometimes affect a person’s cholesterol level if not consumed mindfully.

    There are a lot of products in the market that claim to be low in cholesterol, but it’s important to keep in mind that some of these products still contain high amounts of saturated and trans fat. And these can elevate the presence of cholesterol in the blood.

    Lack of physical activity

    An unhealthy lifestyle, along with being sedentary, will put a person at risk of high cholesterol even if they are skinny. Usually, naturally thin people keep their weight no matter how much they eat as their metabolism is much faster than those with heavier weight.

    However, even though they burn calories throughout the day without exercise, it is still not enough to burn the bad cholesterol the body absorbed.


    A lot of diseases are triggered by smoking, and high cholesterol is one of them. Smoking increases bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides levels, causing them to build up in the arteries.

    It also lowers good cholesterol (HDL), whose main function is to absorb cholesterol and carry it back to the liver and prevent LDL from clogging up the arteries. Heavy smoking not only increases a person’s risk of high cholesterol, but it also makes them more vulnerable to different cardiovascular problems.

    what is cholesterol


    Here’s what you can do to keep and manage your cholesterol level:

    • Have a heart-healthy diet. Consume foods that can help improve your cholesterol like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Also, include foods that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids in your meals, such as salmon, nuts, and seeds, and plant oils, as this helps improve your HDL and LDL levels.
    • Limit or avoid saturated and trans fat. Limit yourself from consuming foods that are high in saturated and trans fat like fried foods, desserts, and processed foods. These foods can abnormally increase the body’s cholesterol, especially if not taken mindfully.
    • Exercise regularly. Refrain yourself from being sedentary as it can lower your HDL or “good” cholesterol. Move around or exercise regularly to burn off calories, which helps control blood pressure and cholesterol.
    • Quit smoking. Stop smoking as soon as you can, so you can protect yourself and others from developing high cholesterol and cardiovascular problems. Changes in your cholesterol levels will become noticeable just after a few weeks of quitting.
    • Check your cholesterol levels regularly. Checking your cholesterol level once in a while will help you be more aware if there are abrupt changes in your cholesterol. Also, keeping a record of your readings will help doctors make a proper diagnosis if ever there’s a need to visit one.

    Key takeaways

    Being skinny and having a normal, healthy weight does not mean you are safe from developing high cholesterol. Thus, it is of great importance that you consistently live a healthier lifestyle to keep your cholesterol levels at bay. And, it will also help reduce your risk of acquiring cholesterol-related diseases.

    Learn more about Cholesterol, here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    John Paul Abrina, MD

    Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

    Written by Mayvilyn Cabigao · Updated Jul 29, 2022

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