We’ve been taught to fear the C word from a young age. The word is provocative, threatening and at times scary but we still don’t know all that much about it. The C word we’re talking about is Cholesterol, a health condition that in 2010 was the second greatest attributor to the total burden of heart disease.
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Here, Dr Ross Walker answers all the big questions to help us understand the C word and debunk cholesterol myths.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is an essential fat-like molecule that is vital for the production of cell membranes and is involved in many key metabolic processes, like aiding in the digestion of fat.
There are two main types of cholesterol carrying proteins; high density lipoprotein (HDL), and low density lipoprotein (LDL) which work to produce cell membranes.
The good, the bad and the…ugly?
We generalise cholesterol as being either ‘good’ or ‘bad’… this is a major misconception.
Cholesterol is typically transported around the body by various types of proteins, the major groups being LDL and HDL. LDL and HDL cholesterol are divided into small and large components, so we should in fact be talking about small or large cholesterol.
For context, LDL is often referred to as ‘bad cholesterol’ while HDL is ‘good cholesterol’. The large components of LDL and HDL are beneficial for normal metabolism and the small components lead to fatty deposits developing in the artery wall.
With the small components, if there is too much cholesterol in the LDL circulating in the blood, this can cause it to build up in the arteries, making them narrow and eventually blocked. This is the type of cholesterol to be aware of as it can contribute to cardiovascular disease, such as heart attack and stroke.
On the other hand, HDL is the kind of cholesterol the body needs. It helps redirect cholesterol from arteries and remove any excess cholesterol out of the cells.
A standard blood test does not measure the sub components of both LDL and HDL, so it is possible to have the dangerous small type of LDL particles, yet have a normal LDL result on a standard test. If you have multiple risk factors for heart disease, it is worth discussing with your doctor whether further testing could benefit you.
To reduce your cholesterol level, it is important to sustain a healthy lifestyle, diet and exercise.
Do we need to eat food containing cholesterol?
Your body does not require you to eat foods that contain cholesterol as it automatically produces all the cholesterol it needs. If you are looking to improve your health as well as reduce your cholesterol levels:
1. Try to avoid foods that contain trans-fat and processed carbohydrates
2. Increase the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet
3. Exercise daily
Are there any supplements that promote healthy cholesterol?
As part of your health regimen you may also want to consider supplementation to help improve cholesterol levels. Ubiquinol is the reduced (active) form of coenzyme Q10 and is a highly efficient antioxidant to combat oxidative stress associated with increasing age, including oxidation of LDL cholesterol. BergaMet Pro Plus is another natural product that, like Ubiquinol, helps to shift small LDL cholesterol to large LDL cholesterol, whilst also lowering sugar and blood pressure, making it easier to lose the belly fat.