WHAT IS CHOLESTEROL?
Cholesterol is manufactured in the liver and can be made from carbohydrates, proteins and fats, but only animal foods contain cholesterol. The total blood cholesterol is made up of three components:
LDL (bad) cholesterol – transports fat to the heart, muscles and other tissues, and therefore is the main source of cholesterol build up and blockage in the arteries.
HDL (good) cholesterol – transports fats from the cells to the liver for excretion or recycling, and therefore helps keep cholesterol form building up in the arteries.
Triglycerides – another form of fat in your blood
Cholesterol has many functions such as enabling the body to absorb fat soluble nutrients, nerve cells functioning and to building steroid hormones. Most of the cholesterol you need is made by the liver; therefore little is actually needed from the diet.
WHAT ARE THE RISK FACTORS FOR HIGHT BLOOD CHOLESTEROL?
Individuals at an increased risk of high cholesterol include those who:
High dietary intake of food cholesterol
High consumption of saturated fats
Low dietary fibre intake
Although it is important to watch your consumption of food cholesterol, it is the intake of saturated fats that is most associated with increased blood cholesterol levels. When blood cholesterol is too high, cholesterol will build up on the artery walls. This will cause the arteries to harden and become narrowed, which limits blood flow to the heart. Therefore the higher your blood cholesterol levels are the higher your chances are of getting heart disease or having a stroke.
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO IMPROVE CHOLESTEROL LEVELS?
You can improve your blood cholesterol levels by:
Reducing to and maintaining a desirable weight.
Aerobic exercise 4 times a week for 30 minutes can increase the level of HDL cholesterol in your body.
Avoid saturated fats and replace with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in small amounts.
Avoid hydrogenated and trans-fatty acids, and reduce consumption of high-cholesterol foods.
Eat fish once or twice per week.
Consume more soluble fibre.