Cholesterol is essential for the functioning of your body and for maintaining a healthy metabolism.
Keeping your blood cholesterol at a healthy level can help you reduce your risk of heart disease and other serious conditions.
It is a combination of lipid (fat) and steroid which is produced naturally. Cholesterol levels are controlled by your liver and regulated in your blood.
Cholesterol is produced naturally by your liver and also from the food you eat (the liver produces around 80% of natural cholesterol and 20% comes from the food you eat).
Our body uses cholesterol to build cell membranes and produce hormones, like oestrogen and testosterone, and it also assists in bile production which is essential for digestion.
Good and Bad Cholesterol
There are two types of cholesterol which are commonly referred to as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cholesterols. Both types of cholesterol are carried around the body by proteins called lipo-proteins.
‘Bad’ cholesterol, known as low-density lipo-protein (LDL) forms a thick, plaque-like substance on the artery walls narrowing the blood flow. This protein is often associated with increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
‘Good’ cholesterol, also known as high-density lipo-protein (HDL), aids to remove and prevent ‘bad’ cholesterol from building on artery walls.
Making changes to your diet
What you eat can make a significant difference to your cholesterol levels and living an active and healthy lifestyle is essential for creating well-balanced cholesterol levels.
To reduce your LDL level (or ‘bad’ cholesterol), you must reduce your intake of saturated fats found in foods such as cream, butter and cheese. Foods such as oats, wholegrain, beans and nuts which are high in soluble fibre and monounsaturated fats can improve your ‘good’ cholesterol.
Making small changes to your diet is the best way to start.
It’s important to note, different foods lower cholesterol in different ways. For example, oats are a soluble fibre that binds cholesterol in the digestive system, removing it from the body before circulation. In contrast, a polyunsaturated fat like nuts and salmon directly lower bad cholesterol by providing the body with essential fatty acids used for brain function and cell growth.
For personalised information and support on cholesterol and heart health, you can contact the Heart Foundation helpline on 13 11 12.
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