Being diagnosed with high cholesterol can come as a shock. But after the initial surprise, a lot of people don't seem to care. After all, it's not as bad as being told you are morbidly obese and neither does it seem to present any immediate health problems. Or does it? Are we being too casual about cholesterol? Maybe if it were called kill-esterol, we would sit up and take notice. And if high cholesterol runs in your family, you should definitely take more care.
To have high cholesterol you don't necessarily need to be overweight, a heavy drinker or smoke 40 cigarettes a day. It can also be due to lack of exercise, stress or a hereditary condition. Too many people believe obesity is the only cause and that's why they probably don't take much notice if they are a healthy weight.
Cholesterol plays a vital role in normal bodily function. It is produced in the liver and carried around the blood by proteins. If your cholesterol is too high the body cannot make use of it all, and fatty material will build up in the walls of your arteries. This is what people mean by "bad" cholesterol. The 'good' kind is the cholesterol that is carried from cells back to the liver to be broken down.
Once you have been told you have high cholesterol it's essential to take immediate action to lower it. One of the most important things you can do, if you are a smoker, is quit. A chemical found in cigarettes called acrolein prevents cholesterol from being transported to the liver to be broken down. This leads to narrowing of the arteries, which increases your risk of suffering cardiovascular disease. That is definitely something you should care about.
You will also need to reduce the amount of saturated and trans fats in your diet. Foods high in saturated fat include fatty meat, cakes, biscuits and dairy products such as butter and cheese. Instead you will need to eat lots of vegetables, fruit and wholegrains to stay healthy. Eating foods that contain unsaturated fat, such as oily fish, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils can also help.
Becoming more active will help as well. You need to do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week to improve your cholesterol levels. This means an activity which causes you to break a sweat and your heart rate to increase. Examples of this type of exercise include walking fast, riding a bike or water aerobics.
If these measures do not reduce your cholesterol enough and you are still at risk of cardiovascular disease, prescription treatments called statins can help. These medications work to reduce the amount of cholesterol in your blood, but they should only be considered if you have already made lifestyle changes and had little or no success.
In short, lay off the junk food, become more active, seek out treatments if you need them and start caring.