Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in your blood. It’s by no means all bad news, your body needs cholesterol to build healthy cells. However, high levels of cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease.
When you have high cholesterol your body has developed fatty deposits in the blood vessels. Eventually, these deposits grow and attach to the artery walls making it difficult for enough blood to flow through your arteries. Sometimes, these deposits can break suddenly and form a clot that could cause a heart attack or stroke.
High cholesterol is a problem that can be inherited, amongst other causes, and it can often go undetected due to the lack of symptoms, so it is essential to understand your risk profile and regularly test your blood. We often see clients who don’t feel the need to check their cholesterol, yet on testing the numbers turn out to be far too high. This then leaves that client at high risk of heart attack or stroke.
High Cholesterol is something that, when picked up and acted upon, does not need to be life changing. In many cases the right lifestyle alterations can have a profound effect on cholesterol without the need for medication.
There are a number of different readings associated with cholesterol that need to be carefully understood.
Total cholesterol. As the name suggests is the total amount of fats within the blood profile.
LDL cholesterol (low density lipoproteins). This is the ‘Bad’ cholesterol, the sticky fat in the blood that causes blockages within the arteries. LDL comes from overproduction within the liver and directly from intake of too many fatty foods such as meat, dairy and processed foods.
HDL cholesterol (high density lipoproteins) This is the ‘Good’ cholesterol. It is responsible for ‘mopping up’ and removing excess fats from the blood, back to the liver where it can be removed from the body.
HDL / LDL cholesterol ratio. This is calculated by dividing your total cholesterol number by your HDL cholesterol number. So if your total cholesterol is 200 mg/dL (5.2 mmol/L) and your HDL is 50 mg/dL (1.3 mmol/L) your ratio would be 4:1. Higher ratios mean a higher risk of heart disease. The ideal ratio would be between 2.5:1 and 3.5:1
Factors that can increase your risk of bad cholesterol include:
Eating saturated fat found in animal products and hydrogenated fats found in commercially processed foods can raise your cholesterol level. Foods that are naturally high in cholesterol, such as red meat and full-fat dairy products, will also increase your risk. However, other high fat foods like nuts, oily fish, eggs and avocado also contain plenty of HDL cholesterol producing fats too.
Having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater puts you at risk of high cholesterol.
Exercise helps boost your body’s HDL cholesterol whilst increasing the size of the particles that make up your LDL which, in turn, makes it less harmful.
Cigarette smoking damages the walls of your blood vessels, making them more prone to accumulate fatty deposits. Smoking might also lower your level of HDL cholesterol.
Because your body’s chemistry changes as you age, your risk of high cholesterol climbs. For instance, as you age, your liver becomes less able to remove LDL cholesterol.
High blood sugar contributes to higher levels of a dangerous cholesterol called very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) and lower HDL cholesterol. High blood sugar also damages the lining of your arteries.
As an example of what can be achieved, one client we have been working with over the past year came to us with a total cholesterol level of 8mmol/L and a HDL ratio of 6.15. He was told he would be on cholesterol and heart medication for the rest of his life, as a ratio over 6:1 puts you at considerable risk of a heart attack. One year on and he has a total cholesterol reading of 4.4 and a HDL ratio of 2.5. He has never taken medication and now has an incredibly low risk of heart attack or stroke. This was achieved by him taking on a full exercise programme, changing his diet, adding in supplements to boost his anti-oxidant levels and clean the blood, increasing his blood nutrient level through IV drips and understanding how to manage his time and lifestyle routine. This same client is now training to ride from London to Paris in one day, what an incredible story! There’s no reason why you cannot achieve the same.
When it comes to cholesterol the best advice is to have your blood assessed regularly and work on real data rather than being surprised by high readings when it is too late to make subtle lifestyle changes first, preventing medication.