Cholesterol - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

What does cholesterol have to do with having a healthy heart? And which is good cholesterol? Which is bad cholesterol? And what is downright ugly?!

Cholesterol is something that everybody has and for the most part does a lot of good things in our bodies. But sometimes it does the wrong thing in the wrong places and that is when plaques can form inside your arteries which lead to a higher risk of you having a heart attack or stroke.

Despite all the acronyms there is actually only one type of cholesterol, but it is carried around your body by different carriers which are deemed “good” or “bad”.  LDL-Cholesterol (cholesterol carried by low density lipoproteins) is known as the “bad” cholesterol because it dumps all the cholesterol in your artery walls forming those plaques. HDL-cholesterol (cholesterol carried by high density lipoproteins) is known as the good cholesterol as it transports cholesterol away from your arteries to your liver. There are also triglycerides which store and transport fat in your blood.

A telling risk of heart attack or stroke is your total cholesterol/HDL cholesterol ratio. (Total cholesterol = LDL + HDL + triglycerides). As a rule of thumb, a lower risk is a ratio of less than 4.0. But what you need to have as your ratio might be different depending on your health and family history.

Whilst we can change our diet somewhat to help with our cholesterol levels, it is worth noting that only 25% of cholesterol in our bodies come from our diet. The other 75% is produced by your liver. So what can you do?

  1. Move more –frequent exercise can increase HDL(good) cholesterol by 5 percent.

  2. Lose Weight –losing just five to ten percent of your weight can help improve your cholesterol levels

  3. Eat porridge – research indicates that the fibre in oats helps decrease LDL (bad) -cholesterol levels.

  4. Medication, prescribed by a doctor, may be used to lower cholesterol. It keeps a good many people living a lot longer! However, some of these medicines (statins) may lower Co-enzyme Q10 levels which can leave you feeling tired. Co-enzyme Q10 is available in tablet form for replacement.

  5. Supplements - A recent study showed that certain garlic supplements may achieve a mild to moderate reduction in your total cholesterol. This could be beneficial if used to help lower your cholesterol when added to your prescription medicine (statins) or if you cannot tolerate prescribed cholesterol lowering medicines. Click here for a link to an article about the study. Or here for a link to the actual study. Click here for video.