Cholesterol is a substance that can be found in your blood and is naturally produced by the body. It is also found in some foods. Cholesterol has a number of important roles in the body, for example it is a major component of many hormones, and helps our cell membranes to work properly. Unfortunately, too much cholesterol (which usually comes from our diet) can have a negative impact on our health.
There are different types of cholesterol
It is important to know that there are two main types of cholesterol that your doctor or other health professional might discuss with you: HDL and LDL. LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein, and is very high in fat. This is considered the bad cholesterol, as it can build up in blood vessels, causing hardening of the vessels and eventually blockages. This can lead to a stroke or a heart attack. For this reason, we want to reduce our levels of LDL cholesterol.
On the other hand, HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein and is lower in fat. This is often called the good cholesterol, as it mops up cholesterol deposited in the blood vessels by the LDL cholesterol. We often want to increase our levels of HDL to balance out our bad cholesterol.
It is also important to be aware of the triglyceride levels in your blood, which are also a form of fat which can contribute to your risk of developing heart disease, and can reduce your levels of HDL (good) cholesterol.
Reading your cholesterol results
Compare your recent cholesterol readings to the recommended levels below:
Changing your cholesterol level
The best way we can alter our levels of cholesterol is through a healthy diet. This means reducing the amounts of fatty and processed meats in our diet, and reducing foods high in fat like pastries, take away foods, fried foods, and sweet treats like cake, biscuits and chocolate. We can replace these foods with reduced fat meats, plenty of fruits and vegetables, wholegrain foods, low fat dairy and healthy fats like seeds, nuts and avocado.
If you are worried about your cholesterol, contact your doctor or discuss your blood results with your local dietitian.