Cholesterol is a fatty substance that enters our body through non-vegetable nutrition and is created by the cells in our body. Cholesterol is necessary for building our cell walls so that the cells can function properly. It also makes certain hormones and bile.
How does it work?
It circulates in the bloodstream linked to carriers called lipoproteins.
Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDL) carry cholesterol to all cells. The more LDL, the more cholesterol in the blood.
High-Density Lipoproteins (HDL) carry cholesterol back to the liver, thus reducing blood cholesterol levels.
The prevailing view in science is that too much cholesterol in the bloodstream can drain into the walls of blood vessels. The blood vessels become narrower and impede blood flow, especially in the heart and brains. The fatty deposits can also completely block blood vessels, which can lead to life-threatening conditions such as heart attack or stroke.
Measuring cholesterol levels
It is measured by means of a blood test that checks for LDL, HDL and triglycerides (also a fatty substance). The safe or ideal values (in mmol/l) are:
Total cholesterol: less than 5
LDL: less than 3
HDL: greater than 1
Triglyceride: less than 1.7
Recently, the overall cholesterol/HDL cholesterol ratio, which should be less than 4, should be considered. That is, at least a quarter of the cholesterol should be ‘good’ HDL cholesterol. The cholesterol content of a person is determined by both genetic factors and lifestyle, especially diet. People over the age of 40 are more likely to have high cholesterol, so it is recommended that they test their cholesterol levels every five years.
About one in five hundred people have a strong genetic predisposition to high cholesterol, and already have a level of 7.5 or higher when measured at a young age. In these cases, it is wise to start testing earlier and provide treatment if necessary.
If it is High can it be treated in two ways:
- Changes in lifestyle focused on diet and exercise;
- Medication in the form of statins.
Avoid saturated fats
At slightly elevated values (5-7 mmol/l), lifestyle changes may be sufficient, adjusting the diet may lead to a 10 percent lower level. The main dietary advice is to cut down on saturated fats or avoid them completely. Saturated fats are included in fat meat (such as sausage), cheese, cream, cake and pastry. The maximum recommended amount of saturated fat is 30g per day for men and 20g a day for women.
Don’t use coconut or palm oil when cooking, but olive oil or linseed oil. Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables per day; these do not contain cholesterol-increasing fats and may serve as a replacement for other foods that contain them. Eat oily fish such as mackerel, tuna and salmon at least twice a week. These are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that lower the levels. Avocados and nuts are also sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Triglyceride reacts mainly to high-sugar foods, so drink less alcohol too!
Remarkably eggs, which are high in it, can be eaten. The body processes it in a way that does not increase the circulating cholesterol.
Red Yeast Rice
Red Yeast Rice is known as a natural form of cholesterol reduction. Studies have shown that it can lower the levels by up to 25 percent, but unfortunately, insufficient research has been done to recommend this.
Do not smoke
Another step that can be taken is to quit smoking. The chemicals in cigarettes reduce the “good” HDL cholesterol and cause damage to blood vessel walls.
Medication is recommended in all cases where there is an increased risk of vascular disease: high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking and when vascular diseases occur in the family. If the risk is high ( >10% chance of blockage in the next ten years) or there have already been clogged blood vessels, medical treatment is necessary.
Statins work by blocking the enzyme that produces cholesterol in the body. They are taken in the evening because the enzyme is most active at night. There are several types of statins, and all of them have been shown to reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol by 25-40 percent, even in low doses.
Another possible drug is ezetimibe, which inhibits the absorption of cholesterol from food. However, this drug is less effective and has more side effects.
Side effects of using Statins
Unfortunately, statins, like other medications, have side effects. Possible side effects include muscle aches, headache, stomach and intestinal complaints and decreased liver function. Increasing the dose means an increased risk of side effects, while only lowering the excess cholesterol by about 6 percent. It is, therefore, necessary to start at a low dose and review the cholesterol levels and liver function after about three months.