There is no warning light that says ‘cholesterol alert’ – so how do you know when you may be in trouble? Check your cholesterol regularly!!
Our lifestyles today determine what we eat and with a hectic workload and not enough hours in the day – take aways and fat laden foods become an easy ‘meal’ option. We think this is ok as there’s no obvious signs stating otherwise – but beware!!
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that can be found in all cells of the body. It is needed by the body to function properly, however, too much of the wrong cholesterol can form a layer on the walls of your arteries and cause them to become blocked. Cholesterol is known to cause heart disease – therefore it’s worth your while to get checked regularly.
Where does it come from?
Cholesterol is found in the food we eat, particularly animal products. It’s also produced by the liver, which has the function of breaking it down and keeping cholesterol levels constant.
Bad versus Good
Low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) deposit cholesterol in the artery walls. These are known as ‘bad cholesterol’
High-density lipoproteins (HDLs) help to remove cholesterol from artery walls. These are your ‘good cholesterol’
Who should get checked?
- If you are overweight or obese, or are struggling to keep your weight under control
- If a family member has had high cholesterol or heart disease
- If you have been diagnosed with diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure or are a smoker
- If you are predisposed – you need to check your levels often
It is not common for children to have high cholesterol, however child obesity is on the increase.
If you are getting checked regularly – you are able to make the lifestyle change necessary to improve your overall health and that of your family.
How do I get tested?
Your doctor, pharmacist or clinic sister (those who offer the service) can do a finger-prick test.
The test will measure your total cholesterol level. If you are within the ‘safe range’ your levels are fine. However, if your levels are higher than they should be, then you need to make an arrangement with your doctor to have a blood test which will measure the different types of cholesterol in your blood including LDL, HDL and triglycerides.
This test needs to be done first thing in the morning after a period of fasting so that your levels are not skewered by something you’ve eaten. If your levels remain high after a period of fasting, the test will provide a more conclusive result and your doctor will be able to assist you with a lifestyle programme to lower and control your levels.
Healthy food tips
Exercise and diet are vital in order to keep cholesterol in check. Three of the most important foods to keep levels constant are:
- Omega 3 fatty acids
Garlic has been found to lower cholesterol and blood pressure and specifically lowers blood-clotting potential and shown to reduce LDL while raising HDL.
Fibre reduces blood pressure, cholesterol, LDL and raises HDL.
Omega-3 fatty acids (oily fish and flax seed oil) are essential because we need them for our body tissues and function but they may also help to reduce blood fat levels and fatty deposits.hnn
The following foods can also help keep our levels constant:
- Oily fish i.e. salmon, mackerel, sardines
- Soy beans, nuts and seeds
- Green tea
- Oils: olive, grapeseed, flaxseed, salmon, avocado
- Tomatoes, strawberries, onion and avocados
- Fruit and vegetables