Cholesterol is a fatty substance in our blood. You’ve probably heard of its association with the risk of heart attack and stroke. But actually, not all cholesterol is bad- we all have it, and produce it in the liver, and we all actually need some of it for maintenance and repair. So here’s the good and the bad of cholesterol!
It’s about quality, not just quantity!
There are different types of cholesterol which mean different things regarding your health.
Low density lipoprotein/LDL cholesterol is the ‘baddie’ here, as it deposits itself in to cells around your body, to the point where it can clog your arteries, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
By contrast, High-density lipoproteins/HDL cholesterol is the ‘good’ cholesterol which is broken down in the liver, and actually helps to dispose of bad cholesterol from your blood vessels.
Doctors will consider both the total amount of cholesterol in your blood, and also the ratio of of bad (LDL) to good (HDL) cholesterol when assessing your cholesterol levels.
There is much that can be done to influence your cholesterol levels.
Some factors influencing cholesterol levels are beyond our control- such as family history, ethnic background and growing older. However, several lifestyle factors also come in to play, which we can work to improve.
The types of fat we eat can directly influence our good and bad cholesterol levels.
Foods containing high levels of saturated fat (linked to LDL cholesterol) should be limited in favour of those containing unsaturated fat (linked to HDL cholesterol).
As a general rule of thumb, saturated fats tend to be animal/dairy in origin- such as meat and dairy. However coconut and palm oil are also saturated fats.
Meanwhile unsaturated fats tend to originate from fish or plants in origin- think nuts, seeds, avocados, vegetable oils.
Reducing your alcohol intake, and increasing exercise also help to restore a healthy balance of cholesterol.
What might your doctor do?
Lifestyle changes are always the first port of call when managing cholesterol. But should these not prove effective on their own, there are many medical options, which are proven to be highly beneficial and should be taken consistently and regularly.
Know your levels
As many people with high cholesterol do not have symptoms, it’s well worth checking your cholesterol levels regularly. See your friendly GP to discuss the various NHS and private screening options available.
Good to know
Naturally, there is heaps more information to be found online. The NHS is a great and reputable source of information on how to lower your cholesterol.