CHOLESTEROL – THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY
What you need to know!
It is a misconception that you will not have high cholesterol if you are young and fit. No one is immune – it is not called the silent killer for nothing.
The reason for this is because cholesterol can build up in your body without you even being aware of it. If you do not have your cholesterol levels tested regularly, you may not even be aware if you have a problem – not until it is too late and you suffer a stroke or heart attack.
HDL – GOOD CHOLESTEROL
HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein), known as the GOOD Cholesterol, is generally considered to be beneficial to the body. It helps remove Cholesterol from the blood vessel walls and the blood itself, bringing it to the liver for processing and excretion.
LDL – BAD CHOLESTEROL
LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein), known as the BAD Cholesterol, is harmful to the body because it carries Cholesterol into the bloodstream, promoting the build-up of Cholesterol plaque on the arterial walls.
VLDL (Very-Low-Density Lipoprotein) is converted into LDL and therefore is harmful. All these Cholesterols are normally found in the body. It is oxidized Cholesterol (Cholesterol abnormally bound with oxygen) that researches are concerned about. When we eat processed foods, fast food, fried foods and the presence of chlorine and fluoride in the water, pesticides and other environmental pollutants, are oxidizing Cholesterol in the body.
WHY DO WE NEED CHOLESTEROL?
Sex hormones and stress hormones are made from Cholesterol. Cholesterol is needed to create cell membranes and coat nerves with a protective fatty insulation that makes up 60 to 80% of our brain tissue. Cholesterol is also essential for proper food digestion and fat absorption because it produces bile salts. Without Cholesterol we would not be able to produce Vitamin D from sunlight and would not be able to absorb calcium, both needed for healthy bones.
The body, via the liver, produces approximately 1 000mg of Cholesterol per day. If we try to lower our Cholesterol too much with drugs, the liver merely gears up production.
Normally, the liver produces about 85% of the Cholesterol measured in a blood test, while the other 15% comes from the diet.
Your body manufactures all the cholesterol it requires, so too much added cholesterol via your diet could prove to be harmful.
A poor diet with a high intake of saturated and polyunsaturated fats, hydrogenated oils, fried food, meat, sugar, coffee and alcohol will elevate Cholesterol levels, especially when a person lacks fibre from whole grains and vegetables. Add a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, carrying excess weight and Cholesterol will increase.
WHY IS CHOLESTEROL HARMFUL?
- High Cholesterol increases the chances of having a heart attack or stroke.
- High cholesterol usually refers to high levels of LDL cholesterol, normal or low levels of HDL cholesterol, and normal or high levels of triglycerides.
- When there is too much cholesterol in your blood, it may build up on the walls of your arteries, causing atherosclerosis – a form of heart disease. The arteries become too narrow and the blood flow to the heart muscle will be reduced and even block.
- Blood carries oxygen to the heart. If not enough blood and oxygen is able to reach the heart, you could suffer chest pains. If the blood supply to a part of the heart is completely cut off by a blockage, the result is a heart attack.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF HIGH CHOLESTEROL?
There are usually no symptoms at all in the early stages of high Cholesterol – therefore testing is so important.
MEDICATIONS USED FOR LOWERING CHOLESTEROL:
- Statins are usually prescribed. They block a specific enzyme in the liver that helps to make Cholesterol, resulting in a drop in Cholesterol but also disrupt liver function. Statins also inhibit the productions of coenzyme Q10 produced in the Liver – a fat soluble antioxidant found in large amounts in the mitochondria which are the principle powerhouse of cells, where all the energy in the body is produced, resulting in diminished energy and muscle weakness and tenderness. In order to reduce the side effects, it is recommended that you take a supplement of coenzyme coQ10 100mg twice daily if you are on a Statin.
- Niacin is a vitamin B which is found in food but is also available as a supplement. The main function of Niacin is to lower your LDL Cholesterol levels and to raise HDL Cholesterol. Furthermore, it also lowers elevated triglycerides.
- Bile Acid sequestrants work inside the intestine where they bind the bile and prevent it from being reabsorbed into the body. Bile consists mostly of cholesterol, therefore Bile Acid assists by decreasing the body’s supply of cholesterol and in so doing, reduces the LDL cholesterol levels. Side effects include constipation, wind and diarrhea.
- Fibrates on the other hand, lower triglyceride levels, can intensify HDL levels in addition to lowering your LDL cholesterol. Fibrates are prescribed to improve the breakdown of triglyceride-rich particles and reduce the emission of some lipoproteins and induce the production of HDL.
- Antioxidants, the regular use of Vitamin E, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and green tea have been shown to lower oxidized Cholesterol levels.
There is compelling evidence that Magnesium therapy reduces Cholesterol levels, even when there is a genetic risk factor present for Hypercholesterolemia. Cholesterol production in the body requires a specific enzyme, HMC-CoA reductase and Magnesium slows down this enzymatic reaction when it is in sufficient quantities. It is this same enzyme that Statin drugs target to inhibit so as to reduce Cholesterol levels. The mechanisms are nearly the same, and so it appears that Magnesium may play its part in controlling Cholesterol when it reaches a certain level. This therefore would suggest that if sufficient Magnesium is present in the body, Cholesterol will be limited to its necessary functions.
Taking medication is only one aspect of reducing your Cholesterol levels. In many instances high cholesterol is hereditary but the main culprits usually are a lack of sufficient exercise and excess of saturated fat in your diet and low Magnesium levels. A change in lifestyle, reducing alcohol consumption and quitting smoking can reduce your cholesterol levels substantially.
Make sure to have your Cholesterol levels checked so that you, together with your medical practitioner, can ensure that your levels are kept in-check and do not become an issue to your health.