”Cholesterol – the good and the bad”

Emobileclinic Trending Topic: Cholesterol 

Cholesterol is a fat chemical (lipid) that is made in the cells in the body. Many different cells make cholesterol but cells in the liver make about a quarter of the total. Cholesterol is carried in the blood by particles called lipoproteins. 

Cholesterol is an essential type of fat that is carried in the blood. All cells in the body need cholesterol for internal and external membranes. It is also needed to produce some hormones and for other functions. Excessive cholesterol in the blood can damage the arteries and lead to heart disease. 

Although many foods contain cholesterol, it is poorly absorbed by the gut into the body. Therefore, cholesterol that you eat in food has little effect on your body and blood cholesterol level.

Why is high cholesterol a problem?

High blood cholesterol is one risk factor for coronary artery disease (heart attacks and angina). If your cholesterol level is 6.5 mmol/L or greater your risk of heart disease is about four times greater than that of a person with a cholesterol level of 4 mmol/L. Not all people with high cholesterol levels get heart disease.

Other known risk factors for heart disease include smoking, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and obesity. If you have more risk factors it is even more important to keep blood cholesterol levels in check and seek your doctor’s advice.

Cholesterol – the good and the bad

Cholesterol is carried in the blood stream in particles called lipoproteins. These are named according to how big they are:

The very large particles are called Very Low Density Lipoproteins (VLDL)

The intermediate size ones are called Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) and these particles cause heart disease

The smallest particles are called High Density Lipoproteins (HDL) and these particles actually protect against heart disease.

What to do if your cholesterol level is high?

The most effective way to lower LDL cholesterol is to reduce the amount of saturated fat and follow a healthy diet. These options could also be followed:

Limit cakes, biscuits, pastries

Choose reduced fat milks

Use polyunsaturated or monounsaturated margarine or oils instead of butter

Choose lean cuts of meat and remove visible fat

Remove fat from chicken

Include more fish and beans in your meals

Lose weight if overweight.

Measuring cholesterol

If your cholesterol level is between 5.5 and 6.5 your risk of heart disease is only increased by a small amount. Do not panic but make a few moderate changes to your diet. However if you already have heart disease, or one of your parents developed heart disease at an early age, (less than 55 years of age) then you need to make bigger changes.

If your cholesterol level is higher than 6.5 then you need to make more changes.

If despite changes to your diet your cholesterol level remains above 6.5 you may need medication, especially if you have the other risk factors mentioned or you have a family history of heart disease.

Reduce excess weight

Increase exercise

drink alcohol only in moderation as alcohol is very powerful at elevating triglyceride

Reduce the amount of refined starchy foods and sugary drinks in your diet.

Factors that affect the blood level of cholesterol

To an extent your blood cholesterol level can vary depending on your diet. However, different people who eat the same diet can have different blood cholesterol levels. In general, however, if you eat less fatty food in your diet your cholesterol level is likely to go down.

In some people a high cholesterol level is due to another condition. For example, an underactive thyroid gland, obesity, drinking a lot of alcohol and some rare kidney and liver disorders can raise the cholesterol level.

In some people a very high level of cholesterol runs in the family, due to a genetic problem with the way cholesterol is made by the cells in your body. 

What treatments are available to reduce the risk?

Everyone should aim to tackle lifestyle risk factors. This means to:

Stop smoking if you smoke.

Eat a healthy diet.

Keep your salt intake to under 6 g a day.

Keep your weight and waist in check 

Take regular physical activity.

Cut back if you drink a lot of alcohol.


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