Cholesterol

Cholesterol

Cholesterol occurs naturally in the body, and in limited quantities is essential for good health, being required for the production of cell membranes, hormones, bile and vitamin D. High levels of cholesterol and other fatty substances in the blood can lead to atherosclerosis (the deposition of fatty plaque in the arteries) increasing the risk of poor Heart Health or Circulatory Problems.

Symptoms

  • Cholesterol tests are performed as part of your regular health check-ups because even though high cholesterol levels may not cause symptoms, it can lead to fatty deposits (plaque) that narrow and harden the arteries, increasing your risk of stroke and heart attack
  • Cholesterol is transported through the bloodstream bound to compounds called lipoproteins. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is sometimes referred to as 'bad' cholesterol, and is the type of cholesterol that can lead to plaque build-up in the arteries, a condition known as atherosclerosis
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is the so-called 'good' cholesterol; it removes LDL-cholesterol from your body, decreasing your risk of cardiovascular disease
  • When assessing your level of cardiovascular risk, your healthcare professional will consider your levels of total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol and HDL-cholesterol, and the ratio of LDL to HDL. Blood levels of other fatty substances (lipids) such as triglycerides will also be considered
  • The presence of additional risk factors for poor Heart Health or Circulatory Problems (e.g. weight problems, family history of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and Blood Sugar problems, smoking, high homocysteine levels, High blood pressure) may warrant more aggressive treatment to manage your cholesterol levels

Causes

  • Some of the cholesterol in your body is produced in the liver. Genetic factors mean that some people produce higher than desirable levels of cholesterol, increasing their risk of cardiovascular disease
  • The remainder is predominantly derived from the dietary consumption of cholesterol and saturated fat from animal products including offal, meat (especially fatty cuts), full-fat dairy products, egg yolks)
  • Trans fatty acids are considered even more dangerous than saturated fats because in addition to increasing LDL-cholesterol levels, they also lower the beneficial HDL-cholesterol. These fats are used in the production of some margarines, take away foods and in processed foods such as baked goods (pies, pastries, biscuits etc)

Nutritional & Herbal Support

  • Phytosterols (also known as plant sterols) have been clinically proven to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels when used in combination with a low-cholesterol diet and regular exercise. They work by helping to reduce the body's absorption of cholesterol
  • Resveratrol is an antioxidant compound that is believed to be responsible for the cardiovascular protective effects of drinking a moderate quantity of red wine. Amongst other actions, resveratrol appears to help prevent atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), help maintain the tone of the blood vessels, inhibit clot formation, and protect cholesterol molecules from Free Radical Damage
  • Taking omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil or salmon oil helps maintain Heart Health, blood vessel function, healthy triglyceride levels and healthy blood pressure. Be sure to choose a formula that is tested for purity so that you're not consuming excessive quantities of PCBs, mercury or lead
  • Free radical damage increases the detrimental effects of LDL-cholesterol. Besides resveratrol (mentioned above), antioxidants that inhibit the oxidation of cholesterol include co-enzyme Q10, vitamins E and C, and the herbs grape seed, (which also supports capillary function) and hawthorn, (which is regarded as a heart tonic with blood pressure-lowering properties)
  • Results from several clinical studies suggest that globe artichoke may help reduce total and LDL-cholesterol. Globe artichoke is often taken in conjunction with milk thistle, schisandra and dandelion; all four of these herbs are traditionally regarded as liver and gall bladder tonics, and are used to increase bile output and enhance the body's detoxification mechanisms
  • High blood levels of a compound called homocysteine increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, and are also a risk factor for dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Taking folic acid, especially in combination with vitamins B6 and B12 may help to regulate homocysteine levels and assist in the maintenance of nervous system, brain and Heart Health

Diet & Lifestyle advice

  • Adopting a Mediterranean-style diet, rich in olive oil, vegetables, legumes, seafood and fruit, and including small to moderate quantities of red wine is an enjoyable way to help manage your cholesterol levels and support your Heart Health
  • Avoid the consumption of trans fats whenever possible by eliminating takeaway and processed foods from your diet, and favouring healthy fresh foods
  • Decrease or limit your consumption of offal, and fats from meat and dairy products, which contain cholesterol and saturated fat. Instead choose lean cuts of meat, skim milk, and reduced-fat cheeses and yoghurts
  • Choose unrefined polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, from fish, nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil and avocados. In particular, try to eat several serves of oily fish (such as salmon, tuna or sardines) every week to maintain high levels of omega-3 fats
  • Fibre has the capacity to bind to cholesterol, allowing it to be excreted from the body. For this purpose, soluble fibre is the most effective form of fibre; good sources include psyllium, oats, barley and fibre from legumes and pulses
  • Free radical damage increases the detrimental effects of LDL-cholesterol, so include plenty of nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables in your diet to ensure that you are consuming a wide variety of antioxidants
  • Restrict your alcohol consumption to a maximum of 1-2 serves per day, preferably of red wine, which is rich in antioxidants. Don't binge drink
  • Physical inactivity increases your risk of cardiovascular disease. After seeking your doctor's approval, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most or all days of the week. A brisk walk is a great start, and will help to manage weight problems, High blood pressure, high cholesterol and Blood Sugar problems, and consequently support overall Heart Health
  • People with diabetes and high cholesterol levels need to take extra care to manage their Blood Sugar, as uncontrolled Blood Sugar problems may increase the likelihood of developing atherosclerosis
  • Don't smoke - it causes Free Radical Damage, harms the blood vessels and exacerbates the negative health effects of LDL-cholesterol

If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional. Information provided is of a general nature and should not replace that of your healthcare professional.

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