Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is made in our liver and comes from certain foods. It is an essential component of cell membranes and is an important part of many hormones. Too much LDL cholesterol can build up in the inner layers of the blood vessels, cause clogging up of the arteries, reduce blood flow and cause heart and stroke disease.
Cholesterol has two main forms. LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol is often called the bad cholesterol and HDL (high density lipoprotein) is often called the good cholesterol. It is important that you know the levels of both the good and bad cholesterol.
LDL is bad because it supplies cholesterol from liver to elsewhere in the body for essential functions, but the excessive fat accumulates and causes furring up in the vessels. As far as LDL is concerned, the lower the better. Reducing LDL by 1 mmol reduces heart disease risk by 55%. HDL removes excessive fat from the rest of the body to the liver where it is removed and therefore acts in a protective manner.
What is good cholesterol – HDL? Why is it called “good” cholesterol?
HDL is a good cholesterol because it works to remove the bad cholesterol from the body and helps to protect against heart disease by preventing the blood vessels in the heart from furring up with cholesterol. This furring up causes blockages and can cause narrowing in the blood vessel reducing the flow of blood and can cause sudden blockages called heart attacks.
The usual level should be more than 40mg/dl.
How can I increase my good cholesterol i.e HDL?
- Having a healthy mediterranean diet. Use more olive, rapeseed, sunflower and nut oils, along with a diet rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, pulses, nuts, and seeds. Avoid meat intake in every meal and include oily fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, and sardines up to 4 times a week. Avoid deep fried and industrially processed food.
- Activity like walking, jogging, swimming, or cycling for at least 30 minutes for five or more days of the week helps.
- Reducing one’s waistline helps to increase HDL and can be as little as few inches even if total weight is unaltered. Excess fat around the waistline, indicates high levels of fat in the liver and pancreas. Stopping smoking also helps significantly.
- Medical treatment can include fibrates and newer medicines on the horizon such as CETP inhibitors which can help
In addition to the above plan, certain foods can help reduce bad cholesterol. Soya is naturally low in saturated fat and has special proteins that help to reduce cholesterol. Nuts are nutrient rich, and a handful of nuts a day can reduce cholesterol by about 5%. Oats and barley are rich in a fibre called beta glucan which binds cholesterol in the intestines and stops it being absorbed. Foods fortified with plant sterols and stanols, vegetable oils, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are also good to help reduce LDL.