Cholesterol and food

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Most of the Cholesterol you need is made in your own liver but you also get it from the food you eat. Special diets that have low Cholesterol levels are needed where the levels in the body increase due to a poor diet and sometimes cholesterol increases are for genetic reasons.

Your body needs Cholesterol as it protects the integrity of the cell's membranes, it is a building block for vitamin D, it enables your gallbladder to male bile acids which are digestive chemicals that allow the body to absorb fat and fat-soluble vitamins and helps to enable never cells to send messages. Maintaining the correct levels of Cholesterol are important for the best health.

With Cholesterol, prevention is usually better than cure, and monitoring your cholesterol levels will help reduce the risks of heart attack and stroke. The press reports on Cholesterol along with Television adverts have made cholesterol management more of a talking point over recent years. It has been portrayed, as the silent killer but there is more to Cholesterol than just a number as you have to take into account many other factors.

Cholesterol is controlled by exercise, a better diet, cholesterol-reducing drinks and Statins which we will discuss later. There are two types of cholesterol, the LDL "bad cholesterol" and HDL the "good Cholesterol". LDL contributes to cardiovascular disease and HDL help reduces Cholesterol and protects against atherosclerosis. The lower your LDL cholesterol, the lower your risk of heart attack and stroke.

LDL Cholesterol Levels of less than 100 are an Ideal level; 100 to 129 are beginning to become too high; 130 to 159 are classified as a borderline high level and 160 to 189 are a high level. If you have levels above 190 this is very high and prompt action is required to reduce to a more acceptable level.

70-80 per cent of Cholesterol is produced in the body and rest is a type of fat and comes from dietary sources. Cholesterol levels should be checked and monitored if the person is at risk, as routine checks from time to time can identify a potential problem early.

The test is a simple blood test and you can buy kits from chemists for under £20, or more accurate tests for about £100. You can usually get tested for free at your doctor or health clinic and many chemists also offer tests, sometimes free or at a low price of £5-15.

The cholesterol level should be less than 5.0. Very high if the level is over 7.8, high where the level is between 6.5 to 7.8 and mildly high if the levels are between 5.0 to 6.4.

If levels are high then this alone is not a major problem as there are other factors that need to be considered like, age, sex, size, family history, smoking, and exercise to list a few. If you have higher reading, get advice and maybe look at lifestyle changes, increasing exercise and a better diet. The use of foods like Benacol has excellent real success in reducing Cholesterol levels.

Triglyceride levels are also connected and as we get this involved, we are starting to need to ask for advice from a Doctor, as not many home test kits show triglyceride levels.

A triglyceride is a form of fat in the blood and if you have high triglycerides your total cholesterol level are usually high, including high LDL (bad) cholesterol and low HDL (good) cholesterol levels.

Your triglyceride levels are defined as Normal: less than 150, borderline to high if between 150 and 199, high if they are between 200 and 499 and very high if the level is over 500.

Blood pressure is also an area of concern if Cholesterol levels are high. Blood pressure should be under 140/90 ideally but again this is not an exact science either.

Diet substitutes are available that help to reduce Cholesterol levels and manage Cholesterol like yoghurts, margarine and other food supplements. These supplements make a small change but can give good results.

Finally, there is a lot of talk on whether Statins are a good idea. They certainly work, but they do have some side effects and are not a replacement for a good diet, exercise and lifestyle changes. Consult your doctor who will advise on whether Statins or similar tablets are to be advised.