Today, I cover an area that many people find creeps up on them before they know it. Cholesterol is a confusing issue and it’s really important to keep an eye on your levels and know what to do about the bad fat coursing around your veins.
Cholesterol is a fatty substance
that occurs naturally in your body. While it plays a vital role, having too
much cholesterol in your blood can increase your risk of heart disease – Ireland’s No.1 Killer
Approximately 10,000 people die each year from cardiovascular disease (CVD) – including coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke and other circulatory diseases. CVD is the most common cause of death in Ireland, accounting for 36% of all deaths. The largest number of these deaths relate to CHD – mainly heart attack – at 5,000. 22% of premature deaths (under age 65) are from CVD. Thus it seems so important to do all we can to avoid the causes involved in developing Heart Disease.
There are two main types of cholesterol: high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL).
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) takes cholesterol from the liver to the body tissues. If there is too much of this cholesterol in the blood it can build up in the walls of the blood vessels and cause them to narrow. This is why LDL cholesterol is sometimes called ‘bad’ cholesterol. To maintain a healthy heart, people should try to keep their ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol at a lower, healthy level.
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL) can remove excess cholesterol from tissues and return it to the liver from where it can be eliminated. This is why HDL cholesterol is called ‘good’ cholesterol. This is the type of cholesterol that helps keep the heart healthy and people should try to maintain a high level.
Know your cholesterol levels
Knowing your HDL and LDL cholesterol levels is the first step – a simple blood test is all that’s needed. It’s important that your LDL cholesterol remains low and your HDL cholesterol stays high. You should also aim for a total cholesterol level of less than 5mmol/L.
and heart disease One
of the main causes of high cholesterol levels is eating too much saturated fat.
Fatty deposits (LDL) build up in your arteries, causing them to narrow. This
puts a strain on your heart and makes it harder to pump blood around your body,
increasing your risk of coronary heart disease.
But small changes in diet and lifestyle are often all it takes to keep your cholesterol levels healthy, or to lower them if they’re too high.
causes of high cholesterol
If you have been diagnosed with high cholesterol, the first method of treatment will usually involve making some changes to your diet (adopting a low-fat diet) and doing plenty of regular exercise.
Eating a healthy diet that is low in saturated fats can reduce your level of LDL (bad cholesterol).
A healthy diet includes foods from all of the different food groups: carbohydrates, proteins, unsaturated fats, fruit and vegetables (at least eight portions a day).
You should try to avoid or cut out foods, which are rich in saturated fat (these are usually all the tasty foods everyone is addicted to!): including
- fatty cuts of meat,
- butter and lard
- cream, soured cream, creme fraiche and ice cream
- cheese, particularly hard cheese
- cakes and biscuits
- coconut cream and palm oil
After a few months, if your cholesterol level has not dropped, you will usually be advised to take cholesterol-lowering medication.
There are several different types of cholesterol-lowering medication which work in different ways. Your Pharmacist in Grant’s Pharmacy will always be there to answer any questions on these medicines, just ask.
Commonly prescribed medications include
- Statins – these drugs block the enzyme in your liver that is needed to make cholesterol, and thus reduce your blood cholesterol level, e.g. simvastatin (Zocor), atorvastatin (Lipitor), pravastatin (Lipostat) and rosuvastatin (Crestor).
- Ezetimibe (Ezetrol) is a medication that blocks the absorption of cholesterol from food and bile juices in your intestines into your blood. It is generally not as effective as statins, but is well tolerated.
You can take ezetimibe at the same time as your usual statin or in combination
There’s evidence that foods containing certain added ingredients, such as plant sterols and stanols, can reduce levels of cholesterol in the blood.
Sterols and stanols can be found in specially developed products, such as some spreads and yoghurts.
People who don’t have high cholesterol shouldn’t eat these products regularly, particularly children and pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Coenzyme Q10 is a vitamin-like substance which plays a vital role in the body’s energy metabolism. Co Q10 is also an important antioxidant within the body, protecting cell membranes. It may help increase energy levels and maintain healthy teeth and gums. Natural Q10 levels decrease with age, by intense physical exercise or illness. In addition, levels are depleted in patients taking cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins). Many people take Coenzyme Q10 as an ordinary dietary supplement. If you are deficient in Co Q10, the benefits of taking a supplement will become apparent to you within a month or so. Your Pharmacist in Grants Pharmacy can advise you on supplementing your diet with Co Q10.
Lastly – Get active – Move your body.
An active lifestyle can help to lower cholesterol levels. Activities can range from walking and cycling, to more vigorous exercise such as running and dancing. You will feel better physically and simultaneously help lower your cholesterol. Give it a go!
Leonie, Janet or any Pharmacist in Grant’s Pharmacy can tell you more about the products used to treat cholesterol, in private and in confidence. Every Grant’s Pharmacy has a private consultation room where you can discuss any personal ailments discreetly and without embarrassment. Pop in and experience a fast, friendly and informed service. We will be happy to advise you on your best course of treatment. Grant’s Pharmacy is located in Wexford town, in Enniscorthy town (Duffry and Rafter St), in Arklow town – all beside Pettitts SuperValu and in Gorey town opposite the GPO. Find us on Facebook.