Cholesterol is a waxy substance carried through your bloodstream attached to proteins called lipoproteins. It has several important functions including making the outer coating of cells, contributing to the bile acids that digest food in your intestines and allowing your body to make Vitamin D and hormones like oestrogen in women and testosterone in men (in fact healthy cholesterol balance can support prostate health).
The good stuff
High-Density lipoproteins (HDL) act as cholesterol scavengers, picking up excess cholesterol in your blood and taking it back to your liver where it’s broken down. The higher your HDL levels the better as it will lower your risk of heart attack and other health issues.
The bad stuff
Low-Density lipoproteins (LDL) carry cholesterol throughout your body, delivering it to different organs and tissues. But if your body has more cholesterol than it needs, the excess keeps circulating in your blood and can enter your blood vessel walls, building up under the vessel lining. These collective deposits are called plaques and the more they build up, the narrower your blood vessels become. Eventually, plaques can narrow the vessels to such an extent that they block blood flow, causing coronary artery disease.
Triglycerides are a type of fat in blood and compose about 90 percent of the fat in the food you eat. Your body needs triglycerides for energy, but as with LDL cholesterol, too much is bad for your arteries and heart.
Happily cholesterol can easily be managed by diet. Eating a diet low in saturated fat is clearly beneficial, but there are also foods that will naturally encourage HDL and reduce LDL cholesterol including:
- Turmeric – the curcumin in this amazing spice has many health benefits
- Lecithin – soy products contain isoflavins which are known to balance cholesterol
- Omega-3 fatty acids – from salmon, tuna, mackerel etc
- Fruits – strawberries in particular have been proven to lower LDL and increase HDL
- Quality grains and fibre – look for chia seeds at the supermarket and health food stores
- Useful supplements include omega-3, zinc, co-enzyme Q10 and vitamin B3
So, do you know your numbers? If not, why not?? Don’t let a random health check highlight you have high cholesterol (it doesn’t happen overnight!). Everyone should have an annual blood test that includes a Fasting Lipids (cholesterol) test.
Healthy results would be:
Total cholesterol: 4.2 or lower
HDL cholesterol: 2.5 or higher
LDL cholesterol: 2.5 or lower
Triglycerides: 1.0 or lower
Did you know?
Being slim doesn’t mean your cholesterol is low! I see many overweight people with perfect cholesterol and equally as many slim people with worryingly high cholesterol. Do you know what yours is?
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