Body & Fitness

How to get your cholesterol down

What you can do to reduce your risk of getting heart disease.

Having high cholesterol is cause for concern. This thick, waxy substance can cause a build-up of plaque in your arteries, which can prevent blood from getting through to your heart, leading to a heart attack.

But what are you supposed to do if your doctor tells you you’ve got a problem?

How to treat high cholesterol

There are drugs – namely statins – that can lower levels of cholesterol. They work by blocking a substance your body needs to make cholesterol. However, they need to be taken indefinitely and they do have some side effects.

Lifestyle changes are essential to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease, and you should make these whether you are on medication or not.

You should:

• Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke

• Eat a healthy diet. Avoid saturated fat, transfats, refined carbohydrates, processed foods and excessive salt. Have plenty of vegetables, fruit, fish and wholegrains and other fibre-rich food

• Be physically active. Exercise regularly and avoid sitting for long periods

• If you’re overweight, lose weight. Try to keep your waist size to less than 94cm if you’re a man or 80cm if you are a woman

• Cut back on alcohol

• Try not to get stressed

Once you’ve got a build-up of plaque, which is known as atherosclerosis, in your arteries, it is very hard to shift. Invasive medical procedures, such as stenting and angioplasty, which involve compressing cholesterol plaque using a catheter inserted into the artery, or holding it open with a small tube called a stent, are options for people with severe atheroscelerosis.

You can also have bypass surgery, which involves using a healthy artery to bypass blocked ones. There are possible complications associated with having these surgeries.

Seven things you need to know about cholesterol

1 Cholesterol is a type of fat produced by the liver and distributed throughout the body to be used in the creation of cell membranes and hormones.

2 When cholesterol is released into the blood stream by the liver it is transported around the body by low density lipo- proteins, or LDL. If there is too much, it can get dumped on the artery walls, causing all sorts of problems.

3 When our cells release cholesterol to be disposed of, it is picked up by high density lipoproteins, or HDL. This is the good form of cholesterol. It collects it to be removed from the body by the liver.

4 The ideal level of total cholesterol is 200 mg/dl. To be healthy, your LDL cholesterol should be 130 mg/dl or less, and HDL cholesterol should be 40 mg/dl or more for men, and 60 mg/dl or more for women. If you’ve had a heart attack or have known heart problems a total LDL cholesterol of 70 mg/dl or less is recommended.

5 Too much LDL cholesterol causes the formation of plaque on the walls of your arteries, narrowing them and restricting the flow of blood. The plaque can become so built-up and hard that it cracks, and a clot forms over it. This clot can block the artery, causing a heart attack or stroke.

6 There are no symptoms associated with high cholesterol. The only way you can find out you have it is by having a blood test.

7 Doctors don’t always know what causes high cholesterol. Sometimes it is the result of the liver producing too much cholesterol. High cholesterol can run in families and other factors include your diet, how much exercise you do and whether you are overweight.

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