What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fatty substance produced naturally by the body and is found in our blood. It is essential for the function of every cell in the human body but is a problem when there is too much of it in the blood. About two thirds of the cholesterol in our blood is made by the liver. Much of it also comes from foods, especially those high in saturated fats.
What is high density lipoprotein (HDL) and low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol?
Cholesterol appears in the blood in different forms. LDL cholesterol is known as ‘bad’ cholesterol as it tends to clog blood vessels. When a blood cholesterol reading is high it is usually because LDL levels are high. HDL cholesterol is sometimes called ‘good’ cholesterol and can actually help unclog the arteries. High HDL levels can be a good sign as long as the LDL levels are not high as well.
What are triglycerides?
When we eat fats in food they form triglycerides that are absorbed into the blood and either burned for energy or deposited into the body’s fat stores. High levels of triglycerides often go together with low levels of good (HDL) cholesterol or high levels of bad (LDL) cholesterols.
Why is high cholesterol a problem?
A certain amount of cholesterol is necessary for the normal functioning of your body, but too much of it is dangerous, especially for your heart.
A slow build up of cholesterol in the inner linings of the heart’s arteries is one of the main underlying causes of heart disease. Bad cholesterol can build up in arteries, narrowing them and making it harder for blood to flow through. Narrow arteries can become clogged, stopping the flow of blood completely. Clogged arteries may result in a lack of oxygen to the heart (a heart attack) or the brain (a stroke).
High blood cholesterol is one of the three main risk factors for heart disease. The other two risk factors are cigarette smoking and high blood pressure.
Do cholesterol and triglyceride levels vary?
Yes. Cholesterol levels tend to rise and fall from week to week. Two or three blood cholesterol readings may be needed to give you an idea of your true level. Triglycerides go up and down after each meal.
Does menopause affect my cholesterol?
Yes. Blood cholesterol tends to rise after menopause. Women on hormone therapy may find that their blood cholesterol drops.
What foods mainly contain high levels of cholesterol?
Any food that is high in saturated fat contains high levels of cholesterol.
How can I reduce my cholesterol?
Reducing your cholesterol to a target level can help reduce your risk of heart disease. Lowering bad cholesterol can stop, and in some people, even reverse the damage already done.
- Eat a healthy diet
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Take part in physical activity most days of the week
- Stop smoking
- Keep your blood pressure at a normal level
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