When was the last time you had your cholesterol checked?
How do you know if you have abnormally high cholesterol?
The simple answer is, you don't know - having high cholesterol doesn't produce any symptoms and many people first learn they have high cholesterol only when they suffer a heart attack or a stroke.
The National Heart Foundation recommends that all adults over 45 years old have a regular blood cholesterol test every year, however if you have a strong family history of high cholesterol, heart disease, high blood pressure and/or diabetes or you smoke, then you should request to have a blood test much earlier.
Coronary Heart Disease is said to be one of the biggest killers in Australia.
Studies actually show it is the leading cause of death in Australia, followed closely by Type 2 diabetes.
Scary statistics from the World Health Organisation show "premature" death from Coronary Heart Disease can affect all age groups and affect woman and men almost equally.
This noncommunicable disease - diseases of long duration and generally slow in progression, is even more frightening as the 4 main contributing factors are all in our control: an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, exposure to tobacco or the effects of continued overuse of alcohol.
- About 2 million deaths annually can be attributed to insufficient physical activity
- In 2010, 1.7 million annual deaths from cardiovascular causes have been attributed to excess salt/sodium intake
- More than half of the 3.3 million annual deaths from harmful drinking are from NCDs (a medical condition or disease that is not caused by infectious agents)
These statistics are quite alarming & this may sound all doom and gloom but the good news is, if you have received a health report from your doctor telling you that you need to do something about lowering your cholesterol and improving your overall health, Vision can HELP! All of these risk factors are in our control and are preventable, provided we choose to act now and seek help.
Exactly what is Cholesterol?
In simple terms, Cholesterol is a type of fat found in your body that is carried in your blood.
We need cholesterol in our body to help our brain, skin, and other organs grow and for our hormones to function effectively. But consuming too much cholesterol is harmful for your health as it can clog the blood vessels that supply blood to your heart and other parts of your body.
The two main types of Cholesterol, HDL (good) and LDL (bad)
Most cholesterol is LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is more likely to clog blood vessels because it carries the cholesterol away from the liver and into the bloodstream, where it can stick to the blood vessels.
If the clogging gets worse progressively over many years it can cause damage to important body parts, like the heart - causing a heart attack, and the brain - causing a stroke.
HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol on the other hand, carries the cholesterol back to the liver where it is broken down and used in the body.
Safe blood Cholesterol levels
Health authorities recommend that cholesterol levels should be no higher than 5.5 mmol per litre if there are no other risk factors present.
If there are other cardiovascular risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure or pre-existing cardiovascular (heart) disease, then the recommended aim for the LDL levels is said to be less than 2 mmol per litre.
Nutrition & how it plays a vital part
When it comes to your nutrition, cholesterol in food is far less important than focusing on eating less saturated and trans fats and replacing them with more healthy fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats) in your diet. Cholesterol in food only has a little effect on the bad cholesterol (LDL) in your blood, however saturated and trans fats in food causes a much greater increase in LDL cholesterol.
Consuming Monounsaturated & Polyunsaturated fat actually helps to lower the bad cholesterol if you follow a healthy balanced diet low in saturated fat.
Good sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats include:
Fish (Atlantic and Australian salmon, blue-eye trevalla, blue mackerel, canned sardines, canned salmon and some varieties of canned tuna), tahini, avocados, margarine spreads based on olive and canola, organic canola oil, olive oil, pine nuts, hazelnuts, almonds, cashews, peanuts, macadamias, pecans and pistachios.
Remember that all fats are equally high in energy, so consume all fats in moderation.
6 simple tips for lowering cholesterol:
1. Avoid trans-fats
Trans-fats contain no nutrition, are highly processed & are classified as the worst form of fat when it comes to our health as it has been shown to double the risk of heart disease. Trans-fats can be found in processed foods that contain partially hydrogenated fat or shortening. These foods include baked goods, French fries, doughnuts, muffins, pastries, pies, pizza, fried fish, hamburgers and creamy pasta dishes that have very low nutritional value.
2. Limit your saturated fat intake
Saturated fat increases LDL, or bad cholesterol, which can lead to heart disease and stroke. Saturated fats can be found in animal products such as meat, dairy and lard.
Choose lean meats and remove visible fat and skin before cooking. Also, make sure to include more fish in your diet, as fish contains heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which can help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
3.Limit cholesterol intake
Although the body needs cholesterol to function properly, most of us just eat too much of it so moderation is key. Eggs & seafood are high in cholesterol but are fine to eat in moderation, as long as your overall diet is low in saturated fats.
4. Don't cut out all dairy foods, just control or limit dairy intake
Consume good quality brands of reduced, low or no fat milk and yoghurt.
5. Consume Fibre
Soluble fibre plays a key role in cholesterol reduction by binding cholesterol to bile acid in the small intestines. Foods high in soluble fibre include oatmeal, oat bran, barley, fruit, vegetables, legumes, beans and nuts.
6. Choose the right cooking oils
In terms of overall health benefits, extra virgin olive oil and canola oil are the best choices. Healthier choices also include canola, sunflower, soybean, sesame and peanut oils.
Exercise & lifestyle to cut Cholesterol
Regular exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by 50 percent as exercise increases HDL levels and reduces LDL levels in the body.
It is recommended to engage in 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity at least three times a week. Start out slowly with the ideal goal of making exercise a regular part of your healthy lifestyle.
At Vision, we always recommend checking with your doctor to ensure safety before starting any exercise program.
All of our Vision programs are individually tailored to accommodate for any pre-existing conditions and are appropriate for your fitness level.
Each training session is tracked so your Trainers will know the exact progress of your weight, fitness and strength which in turn should also be evident in your next check up with your GP.
Don't stress - if you have been leading a sedentary lifestyle and/or are overweight, the intensity of your exercise program will be catered at a low to moderate level until your aerobic endurance increases.
For some people, diet and lifestyle changes are not enough. High blood cholesterol levels can be a genetic component and this cannot usually be changed sufficiently by lifestyle or diet.
But if you can control your outcome, the formula is simple: to lower bad cholesterol, you must combine exercise with a healthy diet and weight loss. Make the choice today to promote heart health for both you and your family.
*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.