What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fat like substance found in the blood. A certain amount of cholesterol is healthy as it plays a key role in the function of cells and production of hormones. However if there is too much cholesterol in the blood the body is unable to remove it, which leads to a build-up of fatty deposits along the walls of the arteries. This gradually makes the arteries more narrow and reduces blood flow to the heart and/or brain and can result in a heart attack or stroke.
There are two main types of cholesterol:
- HDL cholesterol (High Density Lipoprotein):
Known as “good” cholesterol as it removes fatty deposits (plaque) in the arteries and transports it to the liver where it is broken down and removed from the body
Regular exercise can help increase the level of HDL cholesterol
It also protects against having a heart disease and stroke
- LDL cholesterol (Low Density Lipoprotein):
Known as “bad” cholesterol as it forms plaque which gradually builds up in the arteries making them narrow.
This reduces the blood supply to the heart and/or brain.
Eating too many foods high in saturated fat can raise your LDL cholesterol which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Triglycerides are another type of fat and high levels of triglycerides can increase your risk of heart disease. Foods such as carbohydrates, fat and protein which are not used immediately for energy is converted into triglycerides and is stored in the body as fat .
Target Cholesterol Levels:
Total Cholesterol = Less than 5mmol/L
- LDL (Bad) Cholesterol = Less than 3mmol/L
- HDL (Good) Males = Greater than 1mmol/L
- HDL (Good) Females = Greater than 1.2mmol/L
- Triglycerides = Less than 1.7mmol/L
How to lower your cholesterol:
It involves a combination of lifestyle changes such as healthy eating, regular exercise, quitting smoking and possibly starting medication.
- Consume low amounts of salt, animal fat, red meat and whole dairy products
- Switch whole dairy products to low fat
- Increase the amounts of fruit and vegetables to at least 5- 7 servings daily
- Choose wholemeal and wholegrain cereals, bread, rice and pasta
- Have at least 2 portions of oily fish per week
- Grill, bake, poach or steam food rather than frying or roasting
- Limit fats, spreads and oils – choose reduced fat or rapeseed, olive or sunflower oils.
- Limit mayonnaise, coleslaw and salad dressings as they also contain oil.
- Be physically active for at least 30 minutes, 5 times per week
- Quit Smoking with support from your GP or Practice Nurse
If you are worried about cholesterol, and would like to make an appointment with one of our doctors, click here.