Cholesterol is a fatty substance found naturally in the cells and bloodstream of our body. It is produced by the liver but also comes from certain foods we eat. A small amount of it is good and all that is needed by the body to perform certain functions however too much of it floating around our blood can have serious implications for our health. It is important for us older blokes to develop an understanding of cholesterol and especially its relationship to cardiovascular disease.
Finding out the level of cholesterol in our blood is as easy as our Doctor organising a simple blood test. The blood test will identify the two types of proteins that transport this fatty substance (often referred to as good and bad cholesterol).
• Good Cholesterol or HDL (High density lipoprotein) actually plays a protective role by returning the cholesterol to our liver where it is broken down.
• Bad cholesterol or LDL (Low density Lipoprotein) on the other hand takes cholesterol away from the liver into the blood stream.
Bad cholesterol makes up the bulk of cholesterol in our body and at high levels has the potential to stick to parts of our blood vessels building up to form plaque, restricting or even blocking blood flow to parts of our heart and brain causing a heart attack or stroke.
There are a lot of factors that influence the levels of cholesterol in a person’s blood such as our genes, age and ethnicity (which we don’t have a great deal of control over) and our diet and lifestyle (which we do have control over). This is all even more important to consider if we are already at risk of developing heart and circulatory disease due to factors such as smoking, being overweight and having high blood pressure.
Our GP may discuss medication as an option to lower our cholesterol and will most definitely suggest exercise and changes to our diet. Exercise is a no brainer when it comes to keeping our pump and pipes healthy and reducing our risk for all sorts of health issues. Dietary wise, it will involve being mindful of foods that contain high cholesterol such as meat, milk, cheese, eggs and butter.
There is a lot of evidence to support the avoidance of saturated and trans fats which are found in foods such as fatty meat, dairy products and most take away food. Both these fats can raise the levels of bad cholesterol and trans fats are even thought to lower the levels of good cholesterol. We still need to eat fat as part of a balanced diet, but it is recommended this be healthier unsaturated fat found in foods such as fish, avocado and olive oil. Foods that promote lower cholesterol include fruits, vegetables, oats, nuts and beans.
Remember, we need to get the Doctor to check our cholesterol on our next visit and discuss any associated risks that are relevant to us!
Brenden and the Team
The Regional Men’s Health Initiative
delivered by Wheatbelt Men’s Health (Inc.)
PO Box 768, Northam WA 6401
Phone: 08 9690 2277