Manage your Cholesterol to keep your Heart Healthy this Valentine’s Day
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, there seems to be a heart breaker lurking in the background, also known as High Cholesterol. Cholesterol plays an important role in your body, however, a build-up of bad cholesterol can be damaging to your heart health and can lead to heart disease. Let’s learn about cholesterol and how to take care your heart this Valentine’s Day.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in all cells in your body. It is produced primarily in the liver but can also be consumed through food, known as dietary cholesterol. Cholesterol has an important role in producing hormones, maintaining healthy nerve cells, vitamin D synthesis and bile production to help you digest foods.
A small amount of cholesterol is needed in the body to function, however, an imbalance between the different types of cholesterol in the blood increases your risk of heart disease, one of the leading chronic diseases in Australia.
Types of Cholesterol
Cholesterol which is similar to fat cannot be dissolved in water or blood. Therefore, the body packages it into tiny, particles covered with protein called Lipoproteins which are easily mixed and transported in the blood.
The most important types of cholesterol are:
Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDL)- the ‘bad’ cholesterol that can lead to clogged arteries. LDL carries cholesterol from the liver to the rest of the body.
High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL)- the ‘good’ cholesterol which is protective for your heart. HDL grabs onto the excess LDL cholesterol from your arteries and takes it back to the liver to be eliminated as waste.
Triglycerides – acts as the body’s main vehicle for transporting fat from food to cells, this is the type of fat that your body can use as energy. However, high levels of triglycerides can also be unhealthy.
High vs Low Cholesterol
What does it mean if your cholesterol is high?
When levels of LDL are high in the blood, these particles can form deposits in the walls of arteries called plaque which can cause narrowing, blockage and make it difficult for blood to flow through. This increases the risk of heart disease and can lead to a stroke or heart attack if a piece of plaque breaks apart and travels in the body.
What does it mean if your cholesterol is low?
Keeping your cholesterol levels low is usually a good thing. However, very low cholesterol has some known links to mood and anxiety, liver disease, malnutrition and cancer. If you notice an unplanned drop in cholesterol can also be a sign of an underlying condition and you should see your doctor if you have any concerns.
Dietary Cholesterol from Food
Eggs and Cholesterol
While egg yolks contain cholesterol it important to note that there is limited evidence on the changes in blood levels from consuming cholesterol. More so, that saturated fat has a greater effect on our cholesterol levels and we should be focusing on limiting those type of foods. Eggs are a good source of protein and contain many other nutrients including vitamin D, B12 and choline.
The more important thing is to pay attention to the foods you eat alongside eggs such as butter, white toast/bread, bacon and sausages which are not so good for your heart.
Follow a heart-healthy eating pattern:
Enjoy a variety of fruits, vegetables, wholegrains in particular oats, legumes, nuts and seeds. These contain dietary fibre particularly soluble fibre which prevents reabsorption of cholesterol containing bile from the bowel.
Consuming sources of lean protein (fish, legumes, poultry, eggs, nuts and seeds). Try to limit red meat to a maximum of 3 times per week.
Include dairy products in your diet such as milk, yoghurt and cheese. If you have heart disease or high cholesterols, the best options would be low fat/reduced fat alternatives.
Consider plant sterols, which actively block cholesterol absorption, naturally found in plant foods, but can be added to certain supermarket products including cereals, spreads.
Healthy fats and oils can play a role in lowering your cholesterol, these include avocados, olives, nuts and seeds with their oils.
Use herbs and spices to flavour your foods instead of salt.
Dietitians can help you manage cholesterol through your diet
Keeping the LDL ‘low’ and the HDL ‘high’ can be tricky for some people. If you are concerned about your cholesterol levels and diet, there are many ways a Dietitian can help to naturally lower your cholesterol levels to improve your heart health with a personalised approach.
Roses are red, high cholesterol is blue. See an OSCAR Dietitian, and your heart will thank you.