cholestrol is a type of lipid or fat which is found all over the body and carried around the body by the blood. 80% of the cholestrol that our body needs to function is actually produced in our body by the liver, 20% is taken from the foods in our diet. If we consume more cholestrol than our body needs then we are putting ourselves at risk of cardiovascular heart disease.
Types of cholestrol
Good cholestrol or HDL cholestrol (High density lipoprotein)is more protein than fat. This type of cholestrol helps the body take excess cholestrol out of the arteries and to the liver, stopping the depositing of cholestrol in the artery walls.
Bad cholestrol or LDL cholestrol (Low density lipoprotein)is more fat than protein. This bad cholestrol acts in the opposite way to good cholestrol. It carries cholestrol from the liver to cells around the body using the arteries. When there is an excess of this cholestrol, it is deposited as plaque on the walls of the arteries. This build up gradually narrows the arteries decreasing blood flow to the vital organs such as the heart. This narrowing of the arteries is known as atherosclerosis and is a high risk for heart disease.
When we have our cholestrol tested the doctor tests our Total cholestrol (bad and good cholestrol) and should also give us a Total cholestrol to HDL cholestrol ratio. To be healthy we need a low Total cholestrol score and a higher ratio of HDL cholestrol in our blood to LDL cholestrol.
Ways to reduce high cholestrol
Things that can help lower cholestrol level are:-
– Changing to a healthier diet which is low in calories and saturated fat and higher in fibre.
– Losing weight.
– Starting aerobic exercise
– Taking supplements – Vitamin B3 (Niacin)can increase HDL or “good” cholestrol levels, Omega 3 fatty acids increase HDL levels and reduce LDL levels, Antioxidants vitamins A, C and E protect against damage from free radicals.
– Stop smoking – smoking is a free radical which can increase the oxidation of cholestrol and lead to it depositing in the arteries.
Ways to increase good cholestrol in the blood
– Omega 3 Fatty acids found in oily fish and flax seeds, pumpkin seeds and walnuts.
– Aerobic exercise of 20-30 minutes in duration, 2-3 times a week has been shown to increase HDL or good cholestrol levels.
– Eat food that is rich in soluble fibre like oats, fruit and vegetables.
– Niacin (Vitamin B3) in large doses can raise good cholestrol levels. This can be prescribed by your doctor.
– Losing weight
– Eating more monounsaturated fat – this type of food is found in avocados, some nuts and rapeseed oil.
– Give up smoking – giving up tobacco is said to have an immediate effect on cholestrol.
– Medication – there are some drug treatments available for the raising of HDL levels, some fibrates and resins, but these do have side effects and it is best to try changing your lifestyle first.
Whatever you try to lower your cholestrol and increase your good cholestrol, make sure that you have your cholestrol checked by your doctor to test the effectiveness of your efforts.