Nutrition Expert Julie Markoska explains cholesterol, its impact on your health and provides some tips to help lower it.
As mentioned in part 1 of this article series, high cholesterol increases your risk of heart disease, but a certain amount of cholesterol is actually essential for your metabolism.
LDL (low density lipo-protein) is the “bad” cholesterol while HDL (high density lipo-protein) is often referred to as the “good” cholesterol. A low LDL to HDL ratio is desirable in order to protect against heart disease and stroke.
Safe blood cholesterol levels
If you are generally healthy with no risk factors for heart disease the current medical recommendations are that your total cholesterol levels should less than 5.5mmols per litre.
If you have heart disease or other cardiovascular risk factors your LDL levels should be less than 2.5mmol per litre.
Why should I lower my LDL cholesterol?
Research shows that lowering LDL cholesterol:
- Reduces or stops the formation of new cholesterol plaques on your artery walls.
- Reduces existing cholesterol plaques on your artery walls and widen your arteries.
- Prevents the rupture of cholesterol plaques, which initiates blood clot formation and blocks blood vessels.
- Reduces your risk of strokes.
- Reduces your risk of heart attacks.
- Reduces your risk of peripheral artery disease.
How can I lower my LDL cholesterol levels?
The most important thing you can do to reduce your cholesterol level is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Therapeutic lifestyle changes to lower LDL cholesterol involve losing excess weight, exercising regularly, and following a diet that is low in saturated fat and contains healthy fats such as plant sterols, omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats.
You can also lower your LDL cholesterol by taking medications such as statins, bile acid resins, and fibric acid derivatives. Medications to lower blood cholesterol levels are most effective when combined with a cholesterol lowering diet.
You can effectively lower your LDL cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart attacks and strokes by making a few easy improvements to your diet such as:
Reducing your intake of unhealthy saturated fats.
Eating healthy fats such as plant sterols and monounsaturated fats.
Increasing your intake of soluble fibre.
Eating foods that with food components like saponins (found in chickpeas, alfalfa sprouts and other foods) and sulphur compounds (like allicin – found in garlic and onions).
Disclaimer: This article provides general advice only. Readers should seek independent professional advice from their general practitioner or dietitian in relation to their own individual circumstances or condition before making any decisions based on the information in this article.