What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that is found in the body. It is an important building block for the body's cells and plays an important role in digestion. Cholesterol is also necessary for the production of, hormones and bile. Most cholesterol is produced in the liver. If you have a normal, healthy diet your body also takes, has a small amount from the food that you eat.

In an ideal situation, your body will have the exact amount of cholesterol that it needs. Due to various factors, there may be an increased level of cholesterol in your body. This excess cholesterol is then deposited in the blood vessels inside the (coronary) arteries. This leads to arteriosclerosis. This is when passages to the blood vessels become constricted, increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases (such as heart attack or stroke).

Risk factors for increased cholesterol levels:

  • Poor diet and eating excessively fatty foods
  • Insufficient physical exercise
  • Smoking
  • Excessive use of alcohol
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure

 

Types of cholesterol
Cholesterol is a fatty substance, which does not dissolve in water or blood. For the transport into the cells (where the cholesterol is required), it is packaged in small protein globes. These globes are the lipoproteins.  There are different types of lipoproteins:

  • High Density Lipoprotein (HDL)
  • Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL)
  • Very Low Density Lipoprotein (VLDL)

The differences lie in the amount of fat and protein. The more fat and cholesterol, the lighter the particle. Therefore LDL contains more cholesterol than HDL.
LDL is known as bad cholesterol. LDL is responsible for carrying cholesterol through the blood stream, where it deposits plaque on the inside of the arteries.
HDL is known as good cholesterol. HDL carries excess LDL down to the liver. Cholesterol comes back into your intestines through the liver and leaves the body through the stool.
VLDL carries fats (triglycerides) from the liver to the rest of the body. It is common for cholesterol levels to fluctuate. High cholesterol may, therefore, be seen as abnormal. High cholesterol is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

It is, therefore, important to regularly check your cholesterol to reduce the risk factors for high cholesterol levels. However, in most cases, you can also actively influence the level of cholesterol by adopting a healthier lifestyle, this includes:

  • A healthy and varied diet
  • Sufficient physical excercise
  • Quit smoking
  • Use alcohol in moderation

Try to prevent obesity through healthy eating and physical exercise. Abdominal fat is a primary cause for the increase in cholesterol levels.

Healthy diet
By adopting a healthier diet you can reduce your level of cholesterol by 10%:
You can achieve this by:

  • Eating less saturated fat
  • Eating two ounces of vegetables  and two servings of fruit a day
  • Eat plenty of fiber rich products ( whole grain products)
  • Put fish on the menu twice a week and include fatty fish at least once

Moderate use of alcohol is beneficial to HDL cholesterol, it is recommended for men to have two drinks per day and women one. Drinking more than the recommended amount inhibits the positive effects, and it may even adversely affect your heart and blood vessels.

Physical exercise
Intensive exercise at least half an hour every day, lowers LDL and triglyceride levels.

Quit smoking
The nicotine in cigarettes or shag breaks down HDL partially. Thereby reducing your good HDL cholesterol. Once you stop smoking, it restores quickly. For a more desirable level, it is very important to quit smoking.

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