Cholesterol is an insoluble waxy substance that is found naturally in our body. It is involved in many crucial metabolic processes, such as the production of hormones and Vitamin D, the production of bile, which is necessary for the digestion of food, and for the building of cell membrane structures.
Cholesterol is produced by the liver, as well as the body’s cells, but it is also absorbed from the food we eat. Most of the cholesterol needed for healthy metabolic function is produced naturally in the body and therefore it is not a necessary part of our diet.
Combined with other types of fat and proteins, cholesterol travels through your bloodstream in ‘packages’ called lipoproteins. These ‘packages’ consist of fat on the inside and proteins on the outside.
There are two different kinds of lipoproteins that carry cholesterol through your body: low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL).
You may have heard about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cholesterol, and these two lipoproteins are why. But what is the difference between the two? And how do you control the level of bad cholesterol in your body? Let’s take a look.
The Different Types of Cholesterol
Low-density lipoproteins (LDL)
Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, is what is commonly known as ‘bad’ cholesterol. The lower the density of the cholesterol, the more fat it contains. LDL is what transports cholesterol from the liver to other parts of the body, and an excess of LDL in the bloodstream can lead to a buildup of cholesterol in the arteries (called plaque), which can result in a number of health problems.
High-density lipoproteins (HDL)
High-density lipoprotein, or HDL, is what is commonly known as ‘good’ cholesterol. HDL is what collects excess cholesterol and transports to the liver to be broken down and eliminated. This means the higher the HDL in your body, the better.
Ensuring there is a healthy balance of cholesterol in your body – meaning higher amounts of HDL and lower amounts of LDL – is crucial for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in the body and can also contribute to the risk of heart disease. Much like cholesterol, triglycerides are produced naturally in the body, and are also found in foods we eat. They store excess fat from your diet to be used as a source of energy. High levels of triglycerides combined with high levels of LDL, or low levels of HDL, are also linked to fatty buildups in the arteries.
What Is High Cholesterol?
Having high cholesterol is a common health concern for many Australians. High cholesterol is when there is too much LDL, and not enough HDL, in your bloodstream.
A cholesterol test will assess your blood to get a reading of good and bad cholesterol levels. Generally, the higher the HDL, and the lower the LDL and triglycerides in the bloodstream, the better. Too much LDL can lead to a build of a plaque – a combination of cholesterol, fat and other substance that are found in the blood – which can clog the arteries. This is a condition known as atherosclerosis.
According to Better Health Channel, the recommended total blood cholesterol level (a measure of all the different types of fats in the blood) should be no more than 5.5mmol/Litre. A reading any higher is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. If any other risk factors for CVD are present, this reading should be even lower – less than 2mmol/L.
In a 2013 survey, the Australian Bureau of Statistics defined abnormal HDL levels as being less than 1.0 mmol/L for men and less than 1.3 mmol/L for women. LDL levels greater than or equal to 3.5 mmol/L was considered abnormal.
What Causes High Cholesterol?
High cholesterol is mainly caused by an excess of foods that are high in saturated fat and trans fats in your diet. Foods that are high in saturated fat and trans fats are usually high in cholesterol and should be limited as much as possible.
Foods that are high in saturated fat include fatty meats, full cream dairy products, processed meats, snack foods and takeaway, processed cakes, biscuits and pastries. Many of these are also high in trans fats.
There are some foods that are rich in cholesterol, such as eggs, liver and kidney, and prawns. However, they do not have a significant impact on LDL cholesterol and therefore can still be part of a healthy balanced diet. Saturated fat and trans fats contribute far greater to high LDL cholesterol levels. Other lifestyle factors that contribute to high cholesterol include, smoking and alcohol consumption, lack of exercise, and weight.
Despite these dietary factors some people can still have high cholesterol levels even if they lead a healthy, balanced lifestyle. This is due to genetics and will usually require complementary medicine to help lower cholesterol.
Complementary medicine can be taken in conjunction with a nutritious diet and an appropriate exercise regimen to help lower cholesterol. They can help increase HDL and lower LDL, as well as reduce the oxidation of LDL-c.
There are many ways to help lower cholesterol. We specialise in natural complimentary medicine. RAYDEL Policosanol is a listed complementary medicine used for cholesterol management. Policosanol 10 may assist in reducing LDL (bad) cholesterol (LDL-C) and increasing HDL (good) cholesterol (HDL-C) within the normal cholesterol range, reducing LDL-C/HDL-C ratio within the normal cholesterol range, and reducing LDL-C oxidation.
Find out more information here.