With heart disease still the most common cause of death in Australia I thought it was opportune to look at our cholesterol.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is in fact fat found in all animal cells. It has a white waxy appearance. The body does need cholesterol as it plays a structured part in cell membranes both on the outside as well as the inside of cells. Our hormones such as estrogen, adrenaline and testosterone are made from cholesterol. Cholesterol is also converted to bile acids which help the body digest fat and absorb vitamins (particularly vitamin E & A) and other nutrients. Our bodies do make cholesterol and most cells make sufficient to meet our bodies’ requirements.
We often however consume too much cholesterol from eating too much food from animals. All animal foods contain some cholesterol. Foods high in cholesterol are eggs, offal particularly brains and some seafood mainly prawns. Moderate amounts of cholesterol are found in low fat dairy and lean meats while foods from plants contain no cholesterol.
We now believe there are three types of people who are affected differently by cholesterol. Firstly those who do not absorb cholesterol from foods, people who absorb some and thirdly people who inherit altered genes that cause high cholesterol which cannot be changed by lifestyle or diet.
There are two types of Cholesterol, HDL (High Density Lipoproteins) which we often term the good cholesterol and LDL’s which are the bad ones. HDL’s carry the bad cholesterol away from cells to the liver, which breaks it down and is removed by the body. While LDL’s carry cholesterol and distributes in on the walls of arteries which over a long period can cause atherosclersis (hardening of the arteries). The vessels become narrow and a poor blood flow occurs to the heart, which can then stop the blood flow via a blockage causing a heart attack or stroke.
What to do to avoid these problems:
- Stop smoking
- Reduce blood pressure
- Avoid overeating
- Eat well avoiding too much animal fat
- Increase physical activity
- Have a cholesterol test particularly if you are over 35 years
- Cut down on food and drinks high in sugar
- Lose weight using an exercise program
- Cut out saturated fats
- Eat more olive oil and avocados
- Increase the fiber in your diet
- Include plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits
- Consult your doctor if your are concerned about your health
Talk with your local gym about designing a specific program for your needs. Start out slow and get back into shape.