Why is it important to know about cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a pretty well researched topic in nutritional science. Most of us know cholesterol is related to heart disease. It is likely we know a family member like a grandparent, aunt or uncle suffered a heart attack or a stroke, as heart disease is very prevalent in Ireland.

 

What is cholesterol?

  • Cholesterol is a type of fat found in the blood but also is part of bile that we make in the liver to digest fats we eat.
  • Cholesterol is important for making vitamin D and hormones like estrogen in women and testosterone in men.
  • Excess cholesterol contributes to atherosclerosis and increases risk of heart disease.

 

Understanding your cholesterol test

Thankfully today we have “markers” that help us to identify those at risk of heart disease and this gives us the opportunity to put preventative measures in place. The fasting cholesterol test your GP takes can tell us quite a bit.

 

  1. Total cholesterol (5 being the magic number) this is usually the number everyone likes to compare and talk about! But lets look further:
  2. LDL – This level is the one closely linked to cardiovascular disease (CVD) and the one to pay attention to. We are aiming for this to be <3
  3. HDL- Helps to remove the excess cholesterol from the blood and return it to the liver where it is broken down and passed out of the body. We are looking for HDL to be > 1

 

Managing Cholesterol

Raised cholesterol can be addressed with medication like statins which is a quick way of getting this under control but may have unwanted side effects. It is worthwhile exploring if your cholesterol is raised because of your current diet, genetics, lack of exercise or high blood pressure for a more personalised approach. Overall heart health responds favourably to diet and lifestyle adjustments.

 

*If you are taking medication for raised cholesterol, it is important that you do not replace this without consulting your G.P. and still maintain a healthy diet to reduce your risk.