Everybody has heard that they should keep their cholesterol low but it does seem like a very generalised statement; after all, what is cholesterol and how do you keep it low? And, what happens if you don’t.
The term cholesterol relates to a naturally occurring fatty substance in the human body.
There are two main types of cholesterol – High Density Lipoprotein (HDL), and Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL). In addition there triglycerides.
When we talk about a person’s total cholesterol we are referring to amount of triglycerides, the HDL and the LDL. It’s also interesting to note that cholesterol is a substance we actually need to survive and without a certain amount of it our cells would fall apart!
Before we move on let’s just have a quick look at what these things are:
HDL – sometimes known as good cholesterol reduces the amount of LDL and consequently lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease, it does this by maintaining the lining of the arteries and transporting the LDL back to the liver for reprocessing.
LDL – sometimes known as bad cholesterol collects on the walls of the arteries and thus increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Triglycerides – are fats carried in the blood from the food we eat and stored in our fat cells.
While there are other calculations that can be made, essentially when we talk about a total cholesterol number we are referring to a figure derived from these three elements. If this figure is beyond a certain level it is referred to as a person having high cholesterol or hypercholesterolemia.
It’s not the only thing to worry about!
The reason high cholesterol is a concern is because it increases the fatty deposits on the walls of the arteries (arteriosclerosis) which can lead to cardiovascular disease which includes heart attacks and strokes. Hover, it is one of a number of factors that can increase the risk – other such factors include high blood pressure, being overweight, smoking, age, gender, and inherited genetic risk. For example, a very high total cholesterol would likely be less significant in a 30-year old female
than a lower total cholesterol in a 60 year old man, who is a little overweight with slightly high blood pressure.
What foods contain high cholesterol?
Some food contains saturated fat that can increase cholesterol levels and some foods contain cholesterol – these include:
> Meat products, especially with fatty products like sausages, burgers or pies.
> Hard cheeses
> Cakes and biscuits
> Anything containing palm oil (another reason to avoid it)
What foods can help lower cholesterol?
Foods that contain unsaturated fat and fibre can decrease cholesterol levels – these include:
> Oily fish
> Beans, peas and lentils
> Wholemeal bread and wholegrain cereals
> Vegetable oils and spreads
> Fruit and vegetables
> Potatoes with their skins on
> Oats and barley
Remember low cholesterol isn’t the only thing to achieve but a good diet in conjunction with exercise and a lack of stress will be a good start!