cholesterolThis article presented by Hibiscus Private Hospital in Port Shepstone in the interest of the community by Dr Ayoob Bux, a founding director of Hibiscus Private Hospital and chairman of the IPA (Independent Practitioners Association)

Cholesterol is a fatty substance in the blood that plays an important role in our body cells.  The liver produces the cholesterol the body needs, but also produces an excessive amount when we eat extra fat. A high cholesterol level is dangerous and unhealthy as an excess amount is deposited inside the arteries. If the cholesterol level stays high, more fatty material is deposited, narrowing the artery even more, resulting in restricted blood flow to the vital organs of the body. Restricted blood flow encourages formation of a blood clot, which can cause a final blockage. If the flow is completely blocked, a heart attack or stroke can result.

If you have high total cholesterol, it is important to know what type of cholesterol is high. Your doctor can perform a simple test to determine the different types of cholesterol.

High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is the good cholesterol which helps clear excess cholesterol from the blood. The higher the HDL level, the lower the risk for heart disease.  Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is the bad cholesterol which is found in the fatty deposits in the arteries and contributes to heart disease. The higher the LDL levels the higher the risk for heart disease.

  • Your diet is vital in controlling blood cholesterol level. If your diet contains a lot of saturated fat, found in animal products (ie.meat, eggs and dairy products), the bad cholesterol level is raised.
  • Your weight is also important. Being overweight tends to increase your blood cholesterol level.
  • Your activity level can make a difference.Regular physical exercise (ie.walking, cycling or gym)will help lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and raise HDL (good cholesterol) levels.
  • Too much alcohol damages the liver and heart muscle and can increase your cholesterol level.
  • Stress alone does not cause high cholesterol but influences lifestyle habits. When stressed, some people find consolation in unhealthy food, or stop exercising.

Family genetics may result in an inherited disorder which determines the amount of cholesterol your body makes, irrespective of whether you follow a healthy lifestyle and eating habits. Treatment normally requires cholesterol reducing agents to lower the level of cholesterol. Gender and age are a factor; as women and men get older their cholesterol levels rise. Ideally, men should start regular cholesterol tests from age 40 and women from age 50.

This article is for your health information only. We advise you to develop your own cholesterol lowering strategy with your doctor