Cholesterol – the good and the bad!
Cholesterol. A word that strikes fear into the hearts of those of us who are fond of high fat foods such as delicious brie or creamy pasta! But it’s not all bad news! In fact, there's a friendly side to cholesterol that's essential for our well-being.
So, what exactly is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fatty substance that's found in your blood and is essential for your body's normal functioning. But not all cholesterol is created equal. There are two main types: LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein) and HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein).
Think of this as the ‘Lame’ or ‘Lousy’ side of cholesterol because it can stick to the walls of your arteries, forming a dangerous buildup called plaque. This can clog and narrow your arteries, raising the risk of heart disease and stroke.
This is the ‘Healthy’ cholesterol because it travels through your bloodstream, collecting LDL cholesterol and taking it to your liver for disposal.
Usually, high cholesterol doesn't come with any signs or symptoms. You might feel perfectly fine even if your cholesterol is high. That's why it's important to get your cholesterol checked regularly with a simple blood test.
What can put you at risk of high cholesterol?
Things like smoking, high blood pressure or being overweight can make it more likely. Even if you live a healthy lifestyle, if high cholesterol runs in your family, you might still be at risk.
If your doctor finds that your cholesterol is too high, they'll recommend the best treatment for you. Sometimes, making changes to your diet is enough. Other times, you might need medication to lower your cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart problems.
Get your cholesterol checked regularly. The higher your risk, the more often that you should have these checks.
Saturated fat is the type of fat that clogs our arteries and raises our LDL cholesterol levels. A diet high in saturated fat is the main cause of high cholesterol. Simple ways to reduce the amount we eat include switching from butter to margarine, choosing reduced fat dairy, and trimming visible fat from meat.
Choose mainly plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits and legumes (dried peas, dried beans and lentils), and grain-based foods (preferably wholegrain), such as bread, pasta, noodles and rice. How to get more fibre into your diet.
Have moderate amounts of lean meats, fish, and reduced-fat dairy, and moderate amounts of polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fat. You can also look for products with the Heart Foundation Tick as a healthier choice and check the health star rating on packaged food.
Avoid smoking and don’t overdo the alcohol.
Stay at a healthy weight.
Stay active by aiming for at least 30 minutes of exercise most days.