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Cholesterol - those unwelcome fatty deposits

                                        June 2010  


Cholesterol – those unwelcome fatty deposits 

CholesterolI can’t believe there are many of us who don’t know the word cholesterol. It wasn’t something that featured in our childhood but today the word is everywhere. We are continually warned that if we don’t take action to reduce our cholesterol to the magic 5.2 figure or below, then we are increasing our risk of a heart attack and other problems.

It all sounds very scary; but in fact because it is so much in the news, it is easier than ever before to improve our diet and reduce our cholesterol levels and subsequently our risk factors.

Cholesterol is a bit like soft wax and it is necessary because it helps us make hormones and metabolic products. However, it can also cause immense harm and too much cholesterol in our blood can end up lining our arteries which can affect the flow of blood or provide a surface for a blood clot to form.

Over 60% of us have a higher than recommended level of cholesterol, but this isn’t the simple picture indicated because there are different types of cholesterol, and some are good for us and necessary. This good cholesterol, or high density lipoprotein, can help to carry away harmful fatty deposits from our artery linings and can therefore offer a protective effect.

The bad cholesterol, or low density lipoprotein, causes cholesterol to stick to the tissues in our body including the lining of our arteries.

The magic number for a safe level of cholesterol in the blood is 5.2. It is said that if your cholesterol level is below 3.8, then it is almost impossible to develop coronary heart disease.

The first thing is to get your cholesterol levels checked. This is really a quick and easy blood test and the easiest way is simply to ask your doctor for a check, or keep your eye out for pharmacies and even some supermarkets who offer free cholesterol checks every so often. You may be advised to fast for a certain amount of time before the test to achieve a good result.

A desirable result is a cholesterol level below 5.2 mmol/L. Between 5.2 and 6.2 is considered borderline and your doctor could decide to order a lipid profile to see if this level is due to bad or good cholesterol in your blood. If your cholesterol level is over 6.2 then you are deemed to be at risk.

By altering one’s diet, it is possible to change the levels of cholesterol in your blood. Saturated fat is a real problem as it can push up our bad cholesterol yet it is found in so many dairy products, animal fats, palm kernel and coconut oils and also in shortening and lard.

On the other hand soluble fibres, especially oat bran, can help reduce cholesterol levels. The vitamin Niacin, found in foods such as whole meal bread and brown rice, salmon and turkey, can also help to reduce cholesterol.

Because so much is written about cholesterol these days, we can grow a bit weary of being told how important it is for us to reduce our levels. But if you haven’t had a cholesterol check in recent years, it could be very worthwhile visiting your doctor for a test; because with a little effort most people really can bring their levels down. 


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