. You should know there is both ‘good’ cholesterol and ‘bad’ cholesterol

. Try and limit or even avoid fatty foods as they will elevate cholesterol levels

. Remain diligent with diet and exercise and you can minimise risks

Cholesterol is a buzzword that everybody has heard of at one point but possibly doesn’t completely understand as to how it pertains to their body and the role it plays. Over the course of this article we will try and rectify that. The first thing to note is that there is cholesterol that is naturally produced by the body and cholesterol that you get from outside sources through what we eat. These are primarily fatty foods.

The second thing to note is that there is both ‘good’ cholesterol and ‘bad’ cholesterol. It’s one of those sources of matter where you really have to find the right balance because it’s certainly beneficial but too much and it starts to have a negative impact. So we’ll try and help you find that happy medium. Cholesterol helps you to produce hormones and build new cells which are important in maintaining the balance of the body.  

Without adequate levels of cholesterol, cells can become damaged and less effective and hormones may not be produced to a sufficient level which can start to become detrimental. ‘Good’ cholesterol, which is naturally produced through the liver, can also act as a cleanser by helping to break down fats and remove cholesterol from the arteries. These are the essential functions that the right levels of cholesterol help serve.

It’s when you go over that optimal level that cholesterol then takes on a negative effect. The main issue with high cholesterol is that it clogs the arteries which can restrict blood flow which leads to all sorts of illness and problems. These include the potential for a ‘heart attack’ which is essentially when the heart doesn’t have the ability to pump adequate levels of blood to all parts of the body. A stroke is another possibility for much the same reason.

So these are the dangers of ‘high cholesterol’ and why cholesterol often has a negative connotation attached to it because in some cases it literally can be a matter of life and death. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported in 2017 that nearly 30 per cent of all deaths in Australia came from heart disease, with that number being over 43,000 people.

The next thing to consider is how to avoid getting into that danger zone. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take, both in terms of lifestyle and diet, that can help prevent you from putting yourself in unnecessary risk. The first thing we will look at is diet. The two key things to cut down on are salt and fat. Try to eat less than fifteen grams of fat and six grams of salt per day.

This will not only help you to cut down on your cholesterol but also reduce the risk of high blood pressure which is often a by-product. According to the AIHW, one in four men in Australia and one in five women has high blood pressure and this percentage obviously increases with age.

An overload of butter, cream, cake, pies and these types of discretionary foods are a sure fire way to see your cholesterol go up and should be taken with discretion and in moderation. Where possible, try and replace these types of foods with fruit and vegetables if you’re in need of a snack, oats and grain in your cereal and lentils and fish, particularly salmon over the course of dinner.

The quicker you can move to a more balanced diet with a sprinkling of the five food groups the quicker your cholesterol will come down. The other obvious change is lifestyle, specifically an increase in exercise and physical activity. It doesn’t have to be anything too strenuous either. It just has to be consistent and regular and productive.

A walk around the block, a jog once a week, fifteen minutes on a stationary bike and all of these small pieces eventually turn into something bigger. It’s the consistent repetition of multiple small pieces two to three times a week that will go a long way to ensuring that your long term health is not put in any jeopardy. That’s an overview of what you need to know about cholesterol and if you remain careful and diligent in regards to exercise and nutrition you can minimise problems down the road.

References

ABS stats

https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4364.0.55.001~2017-18~Main%20Features~Heart,%20stroke%20and%20vascular%20disease~55

AIHW stats

https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/risk-factors/high-blood-pressure/contents/high-blood-pressure