Cholesterol is a type of fat produced by the liver and cells in our bodies. The human body requires a small amount of cholesterol to perform functions including hormone production, cell structure, production of vitamin D, and production of bile acid to help the body digest fat and absorb nutrients. The body is able to produce the small amount of cholesterol it requires to function; however, high level of cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease.
Cholesterol is a white, sticky substance that travels around the blood. There are two types of cholesterol.
Also known as the bad cholesterol, eating foods high in saturated fat can lead to an increase in LDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol can build up in your blood vessels, causing blockages and narrowing of blood vessels. This can increase your risk of heart disease, and put you at risk of a heart attack and stroke. Saturated fats are often referred to as unhealthy fats as they increase the bad cholesterol.
HDL cholesterol is often referred to as the good cholesterol as it travels around your blood and helps to remove the excess cholesterol, and reduce LDL cholesterol. Consuming healthy fats (unsaturated fats) in place of unhealthy fats (saturated fats) can assist to increase HDL cholesterol and reduce LDL cholesterol.
What causes high cholesterol?
The main cause of high cholesterol are diets that are high in saturated and trans fats, and low in unsaturated fats.
Genetics and family history can also influence high cholesterol; this is often called familial hypercholesterolaemia. Familial hypercholesterolaemia is caused by a genetic mutation which is passed on from one generation to the next. The mutation is in cell’s receptor. The role of a receptor is to help absorb cholesterol; however, due to the genetic mutation the cholesterol is not absorbed well and instead remains in the blood. Treatment of familial hypercholesterolaemia includes dietary modification, weight loss, regular physical activity, stop smoking and cholesterol-lowering medications.
Tips to lower cholesterol