Why cholesterol is bad for you
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Having high cholesterol can be dangerous, leading to potentially fatal health conditions if not treated. It means you have too much of a fatty substance called cholesterol in your blood. Over time this can build up in the blood vessels causing things such as heart attacks and strokes.
One of the most common causes of high cholesterol is diet – specifically fatty foods.
However, there are other contributing factors such as not exercising enough, smoking, drinking alcohol and family history.
While what you eat can cause high cholesterol, it can also help to reduce it.
Nutritionist for meal prep company Marvin’s Den, Rory Batt, recommended incorporating mushrooms – as well as oats – into the diet to lower cholesterol.
He explained: “Both of these contain a beneficial type of (soluble) fibre called beta-glucans.
“Beta glucans form a viscous gel when consumed, which encourages the elimination (though poo) of bile acids.
“Since new bile acids need to be made, cholesterol has to be used in order to do so, often using available low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (bad) therefore lowering its levels.”
There are two types of cholesterol found in the blood, more commonly referred to as “good” and “bad” cholesterol.
Low-density lipoprotein – “bad” cholesterol – is what can build up on the walls of your blood vessels and over time this causes the insides of the vessels to narrow.
In comparison, high-density lipoprotein – “good” cholesterol works to reduce cholesterol levels by absorbing it and carrying it back to the liver. The liver then removes it from the body.
Supporting Mr Batt’s claim, a study published in the Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases journal in 2015, found that people who ate three grams of beta-glucans a day had a low-density lipoprotein reduction of eight milligrams per decilitre.
It concludes: “Our meta-analysis showed that beta-glucan consumption significantly decreased total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations but did not affect triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and glucose concentrations in hypercholesterolemic subjects.”
A healthy level of total cholesterol in the blood is considered to be five or less millimoles per litre (mmol/l).
More specifically, a healthy level of high-density lipoprotein is one or more mmol/l and you should have four or less mmol/l of low-density lipoprotein.
To reduce cholesterol levels the NHS advises:
- Eating less saturated fat
- Exercising more
- To stop smoking
- Cutting back on alcohol.
Some people will also be prescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins, although these are not suitable for everyone.
Having high cholesterol rarely has symptoms.
Most people discover they have it through a blood test if their GP thinks they are at risk.
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