When we talk about cholesterol, we almost automatically assume that it is bad and that it mainly affects fat people. But it’s all a bit more nuanced. Cholesterol is also good and skinny people can also have a high cholesterol percentage. Learn more about what cholesterol does in the body and what to watch out for.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a kind of building material (a fatty substance) for cells and hormones and is produced in the liver. Only a limited portion is produced as a result of the food you ingest. The cholesterol is transported in proteinaceous globules (the lipoteins) and because cholesterol is fatty it does not dissolve, but it does dissolve in the proteinaceous packaging.
The types of lipoproteins are:
- High Density Lipoproteins (HDL)
- Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL)
- Very (Very) Low Density Lipoproteins (VLDL)
The difference is in the amount of fat versus protein and LDL is therefore worse (contains more fat) than HDL. HDL is therefore also called the good cholesterol.
The combination of 80% self-made versus 20% through food normally provides the right balance.
What are the risks and how do you get rid of them?
How can the balance be disturbed and are you more likely to develop cardiovascular problems? There are a number of risk factors that can cause high LDL cholesterol, especially if there is a combination of factors. As:
- High bloodpressure
- (Certain) medicines
- Eating fat (saturated fats).
- Thyroid problems
In addition to all this, a hereditary factor may also play a role.
What does cholesterol do wrong?
Cardiovascular problems can arise because the cholesterol transported by the blood becomes stuck to the walls of the vessels (arteries). Actually, the excess LDL cholesterol should be removed by the HDL cholesterol via the liver to be reabsorbed in the intestines and then excreted again. If this process does not go well, the vessels slowly but surely narrow due to the build-up of LDL cholesterol and can become clogged. We call this arteriosclerosis. The more veins slowly clog up, the greater the risk of cardiovascular disease.
How do you know if your cholesterol is good or not?
Cholesterol can be measured by blood tests. You can do this through your GP, but if you belong to the risk group, a GP may choose to take multiple measurements over a certain period of time. This is how you actually get the right picture.
What to do if your cholesterol is too high?
Of course, your doctor can discuss this with you, but you can start with some things right away. Things that are always good for every body, such as:
- Do not smoke, because smoking lowers HDL cholesterol. If you stop, the process will recover.
- Limit your alcohol intake, 2 glasses per day for men and 1 glass for women can have a positive effect (is good for HDL cholesterol). More negates the positive.
- Consuming healthy food, which is not only about the calories you consume, but also the composition of your diet. Lots of fresh fruit and vegetables are always good. Eat fish more often (oily fish once a week) and regularly take fiber-rich whole grain products. As few composite products and saturated fats as possible and pay attention to your sugar and salt intake.
- Sufficient exercise is at least half an hour a day, but it is better to exercise more. It does not matter whether it is running, swimming laps, using the bicycle as a means of transport, brisk walking with the dog, working in the garden for a while or taking the stairs several times.
Belly fat in particular can be a serious culprit, pay attention to this!
Most GPs rightly choose to let the body do the work first by prescribing a healthy lifestyle, but this is not always sufficient. Just think about the hereditary factor. In that case, the GP will prescribe medication.
Statins are usually prescribed, which is an effective drug.
A healthy lifestyle is always good, but it can also have a positive effect on preventing high cholesterol. A healthy lifestyle has an impact on more things, because you have more energy, you feel fitter, it will improve your complexion and it usually improves your mood. Several reasons to banish the fatty saturated food and exercise!