What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a specific type of blood fat that is made by the liver. Some of it also comes from the food we eat. All our bodies must have cholesterol in to operate as it is crucial for the body to function and is especially necessary for the brain, nerves, and skin.
What does cholesterol do?
- It’s used to create steroid hormones and vitamin D, which maintain the health of your bones, teeth, and muscles.
- It is utilised to create bile, which aids in the digestion of fats being eaten.
The two main types of cholesterol are LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol they effect the body differently.
LDL cholesterol – Often referred to as the ‘bad cholesterol’, having too much of it can induce artery blockages. Fatty deposits called plaques develop in the arteries, stiffening and narrowing them. Narrower arteries make it more difficult for blood to flow through them, placing stress on the heart. This process is known as atherosclerosis. Blood clots may develop over the plaques and obstruct blood flow in the arteries. This can eventually result in heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes. LDL cholesterol is something you do need in your blood. A difficulty arises when there is an excessive amount.
HDL cholesterol – Because it transports cholesterol out of your cells and back to your liver for oxidation, HDL cholesterol is frequently referred to as “good cholesterol.” Thus, it aids in illness prevention.
How can I manage my cholesterol?
Managing your intake of cholesterol is important in preventing you having high cholesterol. Although there are no symptoms, to check your cholesterol just requires a simple blood test. Every adult, regardless of age, should be aware of their cholesterol levels. It’s a good idea to get a cholesterol check even if you haven’t been invited because it is the only method of checking!
Eating fatty foods, not exercising enough, being overweight, smoking, and consuming alcohol are the main causes of high cholesterol. It can also be genetic. Although there are medications for high cholesterol, a healthy lifestyle is typically enough to reduce cholesterol naturally.
4 ways to lower your cholesterol
- Eating fewer fatty foods – Try to cut down on foods containing saturated fats (fatty meats, hard cheeses, cakes/biscuits) and instead go for foods containing unsaturated fats such as oily fish, brown bread, fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds.
- Exercise more – Try to do more exercise (walking, running, cycling and swimming)
- Cut down on alcohol – Avoid exceeding 14 units of alcohol each week and have a couple of drink free days during the week.
- Stop smoking – for guidance on how to stop smoking, visit the NHS Stop Smoking website.