Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that your body needs to function normally. It is naturally present in cells everywhere in the body, including the brain, nerves, muscles, skin, liver, intestines, and heart. Your body also uses cholesterol to produce many hormones, vitamin D, and the bile to help digest fat.
It takes only a small amount of cholesterol in the blood to meet the body’s needs.
If you have too much cholesterol in your bloodstream, the excess may be deposited in arteries, where it contributes to the narrowing and blockages that cause the signs and symptoms of heart disease.
A simple blood test checks for high cholesterol, but simply knowing your total cholesterol level is not enough. A Comprehensive Cardiovascular Risk Assessment measures your LDL (the bad cholesterol), total cholesterol and HDL (the good cholesterol), and triglycerides-another fatty substance in the blood along with other factors associated with Cardiovascular disease. It is advisable that healthy adults have this analysis every 5 years as the risk of having high cholesterol increases with age. Comprehensive Cardiovascular Risk Assessment.
A desirable total cholesterol level is 200 mg/dL or lower. A desirable LDL is 100 mg/dL. HDL, the “good cholesterol,” should be around 40 mg/dL or greater. With HDL, the higher the number, the better, and 60 mg/dL is protective against heart disease.
Signs and Symptoms
High cholesterol is usually discovered during routine screening and has no symptoms. It is more common if you have a family history of it, but lifestyle factors also play a major role.
Genetic predisposition – High cholesterol and heart disease often run in families. If you have a family history of these conditions you might want to consider a Cardiovascular Risk Assessment as this test screens for all the types of cholesterol as well as other known risk factors for cardiovascular disease. It can be an invaluable preventative screen allowing intervention before a problem occurs. A nutritional therapist can go through the results with you and provide advice on diet and lifestyle changes to reduce your disease risk. Comprehensive Cardiovascular Risk Assessment.
Diet – A small amount of cholesterol comes directly from your diet, but the majority is produced by your liver. However, if your diet is high in saturated fats (a type of fat found mostly in foods that come from animals) and dietary cholesterol this can cause your liver to produce more LDL – the bad cholesterol. Trans-fatty acids found in many processed foods and many “fast foods” can also increase LDL levels. In addition, the fibre content of your diet is also important as this helps to lower cholesterol levels. If you have a family history of high cholesterol or have the condition yourself, it could be worth having Consultation which would provide you with practical advice on how to alter you diet to help reduce your cholesterol and prevent a more serious condition developing. Book a Consultation.
Being Overweight – Studies have shown that people who are overweight are more likely to have high cholesterol. Excess weight can increase your LDL (bad) cholesterol level. If you are overweight and have a high LDL cholesterol level, losing weight may help you lower it. Weight loss also helps to lower triglycerides and raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels. Why not book a Weight Loss Package to help you to achieve your goals and to support and motivate you through the process. Weight Loss Package.
Lack of exercise – Regular physical activity can lower triglycerides and raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels in addition to giving other health benefits. If you previously did little physical activity a nutritional therapist can help you to put together an appropriate and enjoyable exercise regime as part of your treatment plan.
Stress – Research has shown that stress raises blood cholesterol levels over the long term. One way that stress may do this is by affecting your habits. For example, when some people are under stress, they console themselves by eating fatty foods, which contribute to higher levels of blood cholesterol. If you have a stressful lifestyle then you should definitely have your cholesterol level checked regularly. You might also like to consider an adrenal stress test which can be a really useful way of assessing stress levels and identifying ways to support the body. Smart Nutrition can also work with you to put together a specific diet, lifestyle and supplement plan to reduce your stress response and help you to manage you cholesterol levels. Adrenal Stress Test.