Healthy Options Longford: The truth about cholesterol

Laura Thompson

Reporter:

Laura Thompson

Email:

newsroom@longfordleader.ie

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Laura Thompson is a local Nutritional Therapist and Bio Resonance Practitioner offering advice on a wide range of health issues

Cholesterol is a waxy fat-like substance that is found in every cell in our bodies.

It is often thought of in a very negative way but it actually has some very important functions. Firstly the body needs cholesterol to produce hormones, vitamin D and substances that help us to digest food. It also plays a role in forming and maintaining cell membranes and structures.

Cholesterol can insert between fat molecules thus making them more fluid. Cells also rely on cholesterol to help them adjust to temperature changes. Nerve cells use cholesterol for insulation. If cholesterol has so many benefits why does it have such a bad reputation? Well, it is possible to have too much of a good thing!

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What is the difference between good cholesterol and bad?
- Bad cholesterol is often referred to as LDL: Low Density Lipoprotein. Elevated levels have been strongly linked with an increased risk of heart attack or strokes.

When your body has too much LDL it sticks to the walls of the blood vessels causing plaque. When too much plaque gathers, the insides of the blood vessels narrow. This in turn blocks the blood flow to and from your heart and other organs. When blood flow to the heart is blocked this causes heart attack or angina.

- HDL: High Density Lipoprotein or good cholesterol is important for reducing the risk of heart disease. It is widely thought low levels may actually be a risk factor in heart disease. HDL acts like a cleaner, scouring the walls of the blood vessels removing excess cholesterol and transporting it back to the liver.

Causes of high cholesterol:
Elevated levels of LDL can be caused by several factors such as, familial hypercholesteromia - a genetic disorder that makes the body unable to remove LDL or bad cholesterol from the bloode.

However, by far the most common causes are related to poor diet, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, age and even gender (pre-menopausal women generally have lower cholesterol than men). Medical conditions such as diabetes, hypothyroidisim, liver disease and chronic kidney failure can also raise cholesterol. Some drugs, especially steroids and progesterone, can do the same.

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How to keep your cholesterol healthy:
* Reduce your intake of saturated fats. We all know the culprits: butter, cheese, fatty meats such as pork and bacon.
* Trans fats or hydrogenated fats are far more dangerous but people are often unaware of them. They are found mainly in margarines, cakes, pastries, biscuits and processed foods. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will ban the use of all partially hydrogenated fats in food by 2021. Until then, be sure to check labels and keep them out of your diet.
* Eat more vegetables, fruit and only consume wholegrains.
* Eat oily fish at least twice a week (high in Omega 3, helping to boost HDL levels)
* Aim for a healthy weight
* Stop smoking
* Reduce stress
* Keep hydrated aim to drink at least 8 cups of water a day
* Exercise regularly
* Drink less alcohol
* Take a tbsp of apple cider vinegar in a small amount of water before your breakfast (if you suffer from an inflamed stomach or have a hiatus hernia, this might not suit you; proceed with caution)
* Add a tsp of cinnamon to your breakfast cereal (nothing beats oats for their cholesterol lowering properties)
* Add some flaxseed or chia seeds to your cereal
Here are some great supplements to reduce cholesterol:
* High strength odourless garlic 1000mg
*Lecithin granules
* Resveratrol
* Red sterol complex
* Flaxseed oil

Check out your local Health store for some good advice.

If you are organising a speaker or training for school, community, voluntary, sporting or work groups, call Laura Thompson on 04333 47776 or go to www.facebook.com/laurathompsonhealth

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