Do you have high cholesterol?
Cholesterol is something that is inside our bodies and we all need it – and just like everything in life – if we have too much of something, it can cause problems.
Whats the problem with cholesterol?
Cholesterol, when in high volume, or in a poor ratio of good and bad cholesterol – has been shown to create damage to our arteries and dramatically increase the risk of heart disease.
A review was published in Sports Medicine in 2014 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3906547/ showed that people with high total cholesterol (>200 mg/dL/5.172 mmol/L) have approximately twice the risk of cardiovascular disease than those with optimal levels (<180 mg/dL/4.66 mmol/L), and of all coronary heart diseases – 30% are attributed to elevated cholesterol.
Types of cholesterol
There are two groupings of cholesterol:
- Good – HDL (High density lipoprotein)
- Bad – LDL (Low density lipoprotein) and triglycerides
Whats the difference?
The bad cholesterol acts like rubbish – which collects in the blood stream. Over time it can cause plaque build up, hardening of the arteries, blockages, and high blood pressure.
The good cholesterol is the garbage truck – which travels through the streets, collecting rubbish to be processed in the liver.
So basically we want less LDLs and Triglycerides, and increased HDLs
Total cholesterol <5.5 mmol/L
HDLs >1.0 mmol/L
LDLs <2.5 mmol/L
Triglycerides <1.0 mmol/L
*If you have had a heart attack or other vascular issue – the ideal range is below 3.5 mmol/L
How to lower it
EAT LESS FAT – particularly Saturated fat (ie cakes, pastries, cream, butter, sausages, fatty meats etc)
When the body breaks down these fats, cholesterol is released into the blood stream – where it collects and causes damage.
Cholesterol that is in food is less of an issue, as your body generally dismantles it or it is secreted.
EXERCISE – studies have shown that when people exercise for extended periods – it helps the body create HDLs, which reduces LDLs and Triglycerides.
It used to be thought that only cardio has this effect, however resistance training, if sessions last a prolonged time (60mins) have just as beneficial effect on cholesterol levels.
MEDICATION – unfortunately as 70% of your cholesterol levels are created within the body, you may have to have medication. Some people are against medications – however in my view, having high cholesterol just isn’t worth the increased risk of heart attack!
*worth noting – cholesterol lowering medication can make some people experience aches and pains in the body/muscles – if this is you, talk to your doctor, as other types may be more suitable.
In summary – cholesterol is made in the body – but having too much can place you at higher risk of health issues. Simple changes to your food and exercise habits can make a big difference to your cholesterol, and your health.