Fact #1: Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in cell membranes in the body.

Essentially, cholesterol is like a lipid, which is broadly defined as any fat-soluble, naturally-occurring molecule, such as fats and oils. Cholesterol is naturally made in the body via the liver, however can be created in small amounts through your diet. Cholesterol plays an important role in the body as a building block for cell walls and bile acids and it is needed to produce hormones and vitamin D. A low level of cholesterol in the blood is natural and healthy. Cholesterol only becomes a problem when there is more cholesterol in the blood than the body needs. It can cause the build up of fatty deposits in the arteries, reducing blood flow in arteries and may subsequently become a problem for a heart health.

Fact #2: There are Good and Bad Types of Cholesterol

There are indeed two different types of cholesterol in the blood, which are carried in special transport packages, called: Low-density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol), takes cholesterol from the liver to the body tissues. If there is a high level of bad (LDL) cholesterol in the blood it can build up in the walls of the blood vessels and cause them to narrow High-density lipoprotein (HDL cholesterol), takes cholesterol away from the arteries to the liver to be eliminated and a high level of good (HDL) cholesterol is thought to be heart healthy Your total cholesterol is made up from both LDL and HDL cholesterol. Hence, the total cholesterol level recommended for heart health for Australians adult is 5.5 mmol/L or lower. To help keep your heart healthy and lead a healthy lifestyle, it is important to keep your bad (LDL) cholesterol low and your good (HDL) cholesterol high.

Fact #3: Eating Too Much Saturated Fats Causes High Cholesterol Levels

Although there are many factors which may cause your cholesterol levels to exceed the target level of 5.5 mmol/L, the most common dietary cause is eating too much fat and in particular too much saturated fat. High intakes of saturated fat can raise bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and in effect cause heart health risks. Usually, saturated fats can be found in fatty meat and milk products, butter, cheese, chips, and other snacks. We can reduce the intake of saturated fat by consuming fewer foods rich in saturated fat, such as butter, fatty meats and full fat dairy; and by preferring foods low in saturated fats instead such as margarine spreads, oily fish, walnuts and pumpkin seed.

Fact #4: Physical Exercise Will Lower Cholesterol Levels

An increase in body weight usually increases blood cholesterol, blood pressure and generally the risk of negative effects on heart health. The body shape is also important: an “apple” body shape carries a higher risk than a “pear” body shape. Besides keeping the body weight in balance, physical activity can also lower blood pressure and increase overall health and wellbeing. Things you can change to lower cholesterol level:

Your weight and shape (an increase in weight tends to increase cholesterol levels)

Whether you are physically active (it lowers LDL cholesterol)

Whether you are under stress

Whether you eat a healthy diet (especially saturated and trans fats increase cholesterol levels)

How much alcohol you drink (a small consumption increases the good HDL cholesterol, however more than two standard drinks per day will increase your overall cholesterol)

Whether you smoke Things you can’t change:

your gender (men tend to have higher cholesterol levels than women, until menopause when men and women are at equal risk)

your age (cholesterol levels increase with age)

your ethnicity (some ethnic groups have a higher risk than others)

your family history (if your family is affected by cholesterol then you are likely to be affected by it).

Fact #5: Lowering Cholesterol through Healthy Food sources

Your food choices can affect the cholesterol levels, especially if you diet consist predominately of saturated fats. Butter and dairy blends (made from a blend of butter and plant oils) are high in saturated fat, which is the type of fat that negatively influences cholesterol levels. Limiting these foods in your diet will help lower your blood cholesterol levels. A healthier choice in your dietary intake, as well as a healthy, active lifestyle will keep your cholesterol within the recommended levels. A sensible healthy meal should include the following:

Lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs or vegetarian meat alternative such as legumes, beans, lentils or nuts, and

Pasta, rice, noodles, couscous, potato or bread, and

Plenty of vegetables and salad As a general guide, aim for half your dinner plate to be vegetables, a quarter of the plate to be either rice, pasta, noodles, potato or bread and the other quarter of the plate lean meat or vegetarian meat alternative. Have a side salad. Experiment with lower fat cooking methods such as grilling, poaching, steaming or using the microwave.

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