How’s your cholesterol?

Did you know?

  • Cholesterol is an essential part of every cell structure in the body
  • It’s needed to support optimum brain function
  • It is also the basis for the manufacture of sex hormones

The liver produces the majority of cholesterol in the body (approx. 2000mg daily and even more so with a high fat diet. Cholesterol is found in foods from animal sources, such as meat, poultry and full-fat dairy products. Your liver also produces more cholesterol when you eat a diet high in saturated and trans fats (this type of fat, known as hydrogenated fat, can be used for frying or as an ingredient in processed foods). Cholesterol is a fatty substance which is transported through the bloodstream via molecules called lipoproteins. There are two types of lipoproteins: Low density lipoproteins (LDLs) often referred to as “bad” cholesterol and high density lipoproteins (HDLs) known as “good” cholesterol. LDLs are responsible for transporting the majority of cholesterol in the bloodstream and may deposit cholesterol in arteries, hence earning their ‘bad’ reputation. HDLs carry unneeded cholesterol away from cells and back to the liver to be broken down and removed from the body thus earning their ‘good’ reputation

So what can cause a problem?

  • Cholesterol levels may greatly be influenced through diet but may also be affected by our age, genetic make-up.
  • Too much cholesterol for the HDLs to pick up
  • Not enough HDLs to perform their role sufficiently
  • When too much LDL (bad) cholesterol circulates in the blood, it can slowly build up in the inner walls of arteries that feed the heart and brain. Together with other substances, cholesterol can form a thick, hard deposit called plaque that can narrow the arteries and make them less flexible. (A condition known as atherosclerosis which may result in a heart attack or stroke)

What do your test results mean?

With HDL cholesterol, higher levels are better. Low HDL cholesterol may put you at higher risk for heart disease. Genetic factors, type 2 diabetes, smoking, being overweight and being sedentary can all result in lower HDL cholesterol.

LDL (bad) cholesterol
A low LDL cholesterol level is considered good for your heart health. However, your LDL number should no longer be the main factor in guiding treatment to prevent heart attack and stroke, according to new guidelines from the American Heart Association.

The following steps can be taken to help lower the cholesterol in your blood:

  • Include the following cholesterol-lowering foods in your diet: almonds, apples, bananas, carrots, cold-water fish, garlic, oats, olive oil, salmon, strawberries and walnuts.
  • Make sure to take plenty of fibre in the form of vegetables, wholegrains and some fruits. In particular, brown rice, oats, barley and beans.
  • Oat bran and brown rice bran have been shown to be most effective at lowering cholesterol. (Whole-grain cereals (in moderation) and brown rice may also be effective too.
  • Include fresh vegetable juices e.g. carrot, celery, or fresh lemon (Adding some spirulina as taste buds allow!)
  • Olive oil is recommended to use for cooking or in dressings
  • Reduce the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet. Look for lean cuts of meat and trim off all visible fat.
  • Eliminate from the diet all hydrogenated fats, hardened fats and oils such as margarine and lard and limit fried and fatty foods in the diet.
  • Limit refined carbohydrates e.g. white bread, white pasts, cakes, chocolates, sweets, biscuits and carbonated drinks.
  • Get regular moderate pulse-raising exercise. Government guidelines recommend 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise at least five times a week. This could include a brisk walk, bike ride, swimming, jogging.
  • Try to avoid stress where possible. Introduce a relaxing activity into your daily routine e.g. hot bath with Epsom salts, meditation or yoga. Even 10 minutes of ‘you’ time can make all the difference!

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March 2024

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