Thursday, 5 February 2015

Is Cholesterol really that bad?

Cholesterol lowering drugs are now one of the most prescribed drugs in the world.  It seems like everyone has high cholesterol nowadays!  But, cholesterol is a type of fat that is vital for life. It is a building block for many metabolic processes in the body including making hormones such as oestrogen, testosterone and cortisol, supporting cell structure and making bile. Cholesterol can be found in certain foods such as meats, dairy products and eggs, but most people are not aware that cholesterol is also made by our liver.

Too much cholesterol can be detrimental to your health by promoting fatty plaque deposits in blood vessels, known as atherosclerosis, increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease. But, our bodies need cholesterol to function properly and remain healthy.  Lowering it too much can also be detrimental to your health.  So, managing your cholesterol at a healthy level is key to being healthy and well.

There are two main types of cholesterol: high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. HDL is essentially the ‘good’ form of cholesterol while LDL is the ‘bad’ form of cholesterol. If the ratio of HDL:LDL is out of balance (i.e. not enough HDL, too much LDL), this puts you at increased risk of heart disease. So, it is important to look at the HDL:LDL ratio. If you have unhealthy cholesterol balance, specific nutrients are needed to restore the balance between the good and bad types of cholesterol.

Most people can control their cholesterol levels without the use of any prescription drugs.  Remember that you need cholesterol to remain healthy.  So, you can’t just avoid eating foods high in fats.  Also, your liver can play a part in your cholesterol levels.  One thing for sure – you need to eliminate damaging trans fats found in fast foods, fried foods and baked goods. Trans fats increase the ‘bad’ cholesterol.  You need to increase the amount of good fats you eat from fresh fish, nuts and seeds.  Embrace a diet full of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, olive oil and garlic. Cut down on sugar in your diet.  Soft drinks, fruit juices and processed foods frequently contain ‘hidden sugars’. When there is an over-supply of sugar the body converts this to fat, which negatively affects cholesterol balance.

If you are overweight, weight loss is an essential part of reducing your cholesterol levels. Daily physical activity is vital for stabilising cholesterol levels and for weight maintenance.  As well as the dietary and lifestyle strategies suggested, appropriate natural supplements and medicines may also help prevent and/or treat high cholesterol.

It is never too late to improve your health. Simple dietary and lifestyle modifications, along with appropriate supplementation, can add years to your life and life to your years!

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