When did you last check your cholesterol? Here's what you need to know
The VITL Nutrition Team / 5 Sept 2018
Cholesterol - is it bad? Is it good? How do you find out yours and then what should you do about it?
First thing's first, cholesterol isn’t always bad. In fact, has many benefits for your health! Here's all you need to know about cholesterol and even show you how easy it is to measure your own.
What is cholesterol
Cholesterol is a fatty, waxy substance that is found naturally in our blood and critical for the body to function normally. It's a crucial component of your cell membranes, and is used to make important hormones such as testosterone, cortisol and oestrogen; as well as being incredibly beneficial for your brain.
Cholesterol is transported in your blood by carrier proteins, AKA "lipoproteins" (stay with us)
There are two types of lipoproteins:
- LDL (low-density lipoprotein) - the so-called “bad” cholesterol, carries fat around the body. It can, in certain circumstances (eg. if it becomes 'oxidised) become part of a plaque that sticks to your artery walls and builds up, increasing your risk of atherosclerosis.
- HDL (high-density lipoprotein) - also known as your “good” cholesterol! These guys carry your “bad” (LDL) cholesterol back to the liver where it is broken down and excreted by the body, stopping it from building up in your arteries!
Where do I find cholesterol?
- Cholesterol is predominantly produced by the liver.
- It can also be found in foods such as red meat, high fat cheese, butter and eggs
How to test your cholesterol
There aren’t any sure signs of high cholesterol until you experience severe consequences, such as a heart attack so it is highly recommended that you check your cholesterol levels with a blood test .
With the VITL Blood Test, you'll get a full breakdown of your cholesterol levels, including your:
- LDL cholesterol
- HDL cholesterol
- Total cholesterol
- Cholesterol ratio
What do the numbers mean?
- Your HDL (“good”) cholesterol should be higher
- Your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol should be lower
What can I do if my LDL cholesterol levels are high?
Don’t worry, this isn’t the end of the line, there are steps you can take to reduce your levels!
- Diet - avoid animal fats high in saturated fatty acids (SFAs) as these are generally high in dietary cholesterol.
- Weight - ensuring you are at a healthy weight is important for your cholesterol levels. Try to engage in regular exercise that raises the heart rate for 20 to 30 minutes at a time. This will help to make your heart work harder and helps to raise your “good” cholesterol
- Supplements! - Niacin (also known as vitamin B3) can help to boost your “good” cholesterol and lower your “bad” cholesterol - consult with your GP to see if this would be a suitable option. Fish oil can also help reduce cholesterol and triglycerides.
- Don’t smoke, and try to avoid high consumption of alcohol!
We also recommend that you check your levels every 3 months. Your cholesterol levels will fluctuate according to your diet and lifestyle so it is important that you check in with your levels to ensure you're keeping on track!