Cholesterol is a fatty substance found in the blood. It's mainly made in the body, and plays an essential role in how every cell in the body works. However, too much cholesterol in the blood can increase your risk of cardiovascular diseases which can lead to "Heart Attack"
High cholesterol is one of the main risk factors for heart disease (Other Important factors are, High Blood Pressure, Diabetes, Smoking with minor factors like, Family history of heart disease, obesity/over weight, Type A Personalities)
Cholesterol is carried around the body by proteins. These combinations of cholesterol and proteins are called lipoproteins. There are two main types of lipoproteins:
LDL (low-density lipoprotein) is the harmful type of cholesterol
HDL (high-density lipoprotein) is a protective type of cholesterol
Having too much harmful cholesterol in your blood can increase your risk of getting cardiovascular disease. The risk is particularly high if you have a high level of LDL cholesterol and a low level of HDL cholesterol.
Triglycerides are another type of fatty substance in the blood. They're found in foods such as dairy products, meat and cooking oils. They can also be produced in the body, either by the body’s fat stores or in the liver.
People who are very overweight, eat a lot of fatty and sugary foods, or drink too much alcohol are more likely to have a high triglyceride level. People with high triglyceride levels have a greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease than people with lower levels.
What causes high cholesterol?
A common cause of high blood cholesterol levels is eating too much saturated fat.
However, some people have high blood cholesterol even though they eat a healthy diet. For example, they may have inherited a condition called familial hyperlipidaemia (FH).
The cholesterol which is found in some foods such as eggs, liver, kidneys and some types of seafood eg. prawns, does not usually make a great contribution to the level of cholesterol in your blood. It's much more important that you eat foods that are low in saturated fat.
How can you reduce your cholesterol level?
1. Cut down on saturated fats
To help reduce your cholesterol level, you need to cut down on saturated fats and instead use unsaturated fats such as olive, rapeseed or sunflower oils and spreads. You should also reduce the total amount of fat you eat.
2. Eat oily fish regularly
Oily fish provides the richest source of a particular type of polyunsaturated fat known as omega-3. Omega-3 from oily fish can help to lower blood triglyceride levels, helps prevent the blood from clotting, and can also help to regulate the heart rhythm.
3. Eat a high-fibre diet
Foods that are high in soluble fibre such as oats, beans, pulses, lentils, nuts, fruits and vegetables, can help lower cholesterol.
4. Do regular physical activity
This can help increase your HDL cholesterol (the 'protective' type of cholesterol).
There is evidence to show that substances called plant sterols and stanols may help reduce cholesterol levels when 2g per day is regularly consumed. They are added to certain foods including margarines, spreads, soft cheeses and yoghurts. However, if you have been told by your doctor that you need to reduce your cholesterol levels, you can do this through changing your diet without using special products.
If you decide to use these products you should follow the manufacturer's instrcutions on the amounts needed to provide you with 2g a day. And remember they are not a substitute for a heart healthy diet or a replacement for cholesterol lowering drugs.
Role of medication in lowering Cholesterol and Cardiovascular risk:
Whether you need to take cholesterol-lowering drugs or not depends not just on your total cholesterol, HDL and LDL levels, but also on your overall risk of cardiovascular disease.
Cholesterol-lowering medicines such as statins are prescribed for people who are at greatest overall risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease. They are now routinely prescribed to any one with high cholesterol or who has any history of past or present heart condition, mainly Ischemic heart disease.
REMEMBER THE KEY IS :
Eat healthy, engage in daily exercise, avoid smoking, lose any extra pounds and make sure that your blood pressure, cholesterol levels are checked and your are under control.