This article gives you the facts and some general information about cholestrol, what it is, what all the fuss is about cholestrol, how cholestrol levels are measured, how specific types of food and diet can lower your cholestrol level, the symptoms of high cholestrol and its treatment.
What is cholestrol?
cholestrol is simply a type of fat that is found in the blood and all over the body in cell walls and membranes. It is produced in our bodies by the liver and is also found in the food that we eat. Meat, fish, eggs and dairy products are all sources of cholestrol.
Our vital organs, such as our brains and our skin, need cholestrol to be able to grow and to function properly. cholestrol is also needed by the body to produce hormones, Vitamin D (for protection against certain cancers and for healthy bones) and the bile acids that our body uses to break down and digest fat.
However the body only needs a small amount of cholestrol to function normally and an oversupply of cholestrol can be bad.
What is all the fuss about cholestrol?
If the body has too much cholestrol then the excess in the blood is deposited in the walls of the arteries, this is called atherosclerosis. These deposits eventually narrow the arteries reducing blood flow. You can imagine how serious this is in the coronary arteries which supply the heart. Narrowing of the coronary arteries leads to coronary heart disease. The British Heart Foundation has said that around half of the heart disease cases in Britain are caused by high cholestrol levels. We should be worrying about cholestrol.
Types of cholestrol
There are two types of cholestrol commonly known as “good” cholestrol and “bad” cholestrol.
“Good” cholestrol or HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) 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 (Low Density Lipoprotein) acts in the opposite way and carries cholestrol from the liver to cells around the body using the arteries and increasing the risk of cholestrol build up.
How cholestrol level is measured
It is important to know about cholestrol levels. In the UK alone over half the population of men and 60% of women have high cholestrol.
In the UK cholestrol level is measured in millimoles per litre and, in the US, cholestrol level is measured in milligrams per decilitre.
cholestrol level can be measured with a simple blood test. This can be done by a doctor or by using a home cholestrol testing kit. A doctor can test the blood for levels of HDL cholestrol and LDL cholestrol in addition to testing your overall cholestrol. Some home tests just measure overall cholestrol but some do measure good and bad cholestrol.
About cholestrol Levels
A total cholestrol of 190-210mg/dl or 4.9-5.4mmol/l is seen as a healthy total cholestrol level.
A total cholestrol level above 330mg/dl or 8.5mmol/l puts you at a higher risk of suffering coronary heart disease.
To be healthy we need a higher ratio of HDL cholestrol in our blood to LDL cholestrol. A healthy ratio for HDL is 3.5 HDL:1 LDL or below.
Symptoms of high cholestrol
The symptoms of atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries) are:-
– Leg pain
– yellowing of the skin around the eyes and on other parts of the skin
More serious symptoms can be:-
– suffering a mini stroke
– Coronary thrombosis
Treatment of High cholestrol
Things that can help lower your cholestrol level are:-
– Changing to a healthier diet which is lower calorie, lower in saturated fats and higher in fibre.
– Losing weight.
– Starting aerobic exercise (check with your doctor first) – aerobic exercise can be effective in lowering cholestrol levels.
– 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.
– Consuming wheat grass and oat products.
Make sure you find out all you can about cholestrol, it’s a killer.