What are the types of cholesterol?
There are two main types of cholesterol: one good and the other bad. Having too much 'bad' cholesterol can cause problems with your health.
LDL is called 'bad' cholesterol. When there is too much of it, it can build up inside the walls of the blood vessels. This can lead to fatty material (atheroma) building up. This process is known as atherosclerosis. This clogs them up, causing narrowing of the arteries, making it harder for blood to flow through, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
HDL is called 'good' cholesterol. This is because it gets rid of the 'bad' cholesterol from your blood. It takes cholesterol that you don't need back to the liver. The liver breaks it down so it can be passed out of your body.
What causes high cholesterol?
Anyone can get high cholesterol, and many different things can cause it. Some things you can control like lifestyle habits, others you can't. As long as you take care of the things you can control, you'll help lower your risk.
Things that cause high cholesterol you can control:
- Eating too much saturated fat from foods like fatty and processed meat, pies and pastry, butter, cream, and coconut oil.
- Not being active enough.
- Having too much body fat, especially around your abdomen.
- Smoking can lead to high cholesterol levels, and the build-up of tar it causes in your arteries makes it easier for cholesterol to stick to your artery walls.
How can I lower my cholesterol levels?
- Swap your saturated fats with foods high in unsaturated fat like vegetable oils (sunflower, olive, and rapeseed oil), nuts, seeds, avocado, and oily fish.
- Eat a high-fiber diet. Fiber, especially soluble, helps reduce the amount of cholesterol absorbed into the bloodstream from your gut. Include high-fiber foods like whole grains, lentils, beans, chickpeas, oats, seeds, vegetables, and whole fruits in your daily nutrition.
- Engage in regular physical activity. Being active helps your body move the bad cholesterol to your liver, where it can be removed from your system.
- Quit smoking.
- Cutting down on alcohol will help your liver work better at removing bad cholesterol. It may also improve your heart health in other ways by helping you lose weight and lower your blood pressure.