Cholesterol – What’s good, what’s bad?

GP South Yarra - Cholesterol - good or bad?

Cholesterol has prompted a great deal of discussion over the years. Currently there is no doubt at all that a high blood cholesterol level is a significant risk factor for coronary artery disease. Even so this should be considered along with the other coronary risk factors, such as high blood pressure, smoking, obesity and a family history of coronary artery disease.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy,fat, made by the body, but also found in certain foods like egg yolks and meats like kidney and pate. Most people take in about 1 gram of cholesterol every day.

I thought cholesterol was bad for you?

The body needs cholesterol for 3 main functions:

  • To make the outer coating of cells
  • To make up bile that helps digest food in the gut
  • To make Vitamin D and other hormones, like oestrogen in women and testosterone in men

Too much cholesterol is unhealthy. It can form plaques, which block arteries and can lead to heart disease and stroke.

What’s the difference between “good” and “bad” cholesterol ?

Cholesterol is carried around in the blood mostly as LDL (the bad stuff), or HDL (the good stuff).
LDL carries cholesterol to the parts of the body that need it, but if you have too much LDL it can block your arteries, leading to heart attack or stroke.
HDL vacuums up the bad stuff, transporting it back to the liver where it can be recycled or excreted.
Your blood cholesterol is the sum of how much cholesterol your body makes plus how much you take in from food, minus how much you use up or excrete.

The healthiest balance is to have a HIGH HDL and a low LDL.

Why is my LDL cholesterol high?

Causes of a high LDL cholesterol include:

  • Diet – a diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol
  • Being overweight
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Heredity – the genes you inherit partly determine how much cholesterol your body makes
  • Age and Gender – after 20 years of age cholesterol levels increase. Women have generally lower levels of cholesterol than men up to menopause, after menopause cholesterol levels rise

What can I do about it?

Managing your cholesterol by maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle can help reduce your cholesterol levels.

1.       DIET

  • Replace saturated fats with poly and monounsaturated oils
    eg. olive, peanut and canola oils, sunflower,safflower,soybean and sesame oils
  • Eat more fruit, vegetables,legumes (lentils, chick peas, kidney beans)
  • Eat more wholegrain bread, cereals and rice
  • Choose lean cuts of meat
  • Choose low fat dairy products (avoid sweetened low fat yoghurt)
  • Include omega 3 oils eg salmon, tuna, walnuts, linseed, chia seeds
  • Eggs are fine, up to 6/week
  • Avoid full fat dairy products eg cheese, butter and cream
  • Avoid meat fat eg chicken skin, processed meats (salami, sausages)
  • Eat less packaged biscuits, cakes, take away
  • Avoid coconut cream and milk

2.       EXERCISE
30 min/day of exercise can help reduce LDL and increase HDL

3.       WEIGHT LOSS
Weight loss can reduce LDL and trigs and increase HDL

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