CHOLESTEROL is a substance found in fats that’s needed to build healthy cells, but can increase the risk of heart disease if levels are too high.
But what is the normal amount and how can you lower it safely in the body?
What is normal cholesterol?
Cholesterol is the fatty substance that is carried in the blood by proteins.
It’s made by the liver but found in certain foods, and high levels can increase your risk of serious health problems.
When cholesterol combines with protein to be carried in the blood, it is known as a lipoprotein.
There are two types of lipoprotein; high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL).
What is the difference between high-density lipoprotein and low-density lipoprotein?
HDLs carry cholesterol away from cells and back to the liver where it can be broken down.
This is then used by the body or passed out as waste.
HDLs are known as “good cholesterol” and higher levels are considered better.
LDLs carry cholesterol to cells that require it, but if too much is delivered this can build up in artery walls, which can lead to heart disease.
LDLs are therefore known as “bad cholesterol”.
What are the dangers of too much cholesterol?
High levels of cholesterol can build up in the artery walls and reduce blood flow to the heart.
This increases the risk of a clot forming around the body and also coronary heart disease occurring.
According to the NHS website, high levels can lead to:
- narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis)
- heart attack
- transient ischaemic attack (TIA) – often known as a “mini stroke”
- peripheral arterial disease (PAD)
What’s an ideal safe level of cholesterol?
The way you can measure blood cholesterol levels is using the unit millimoles per litre of blood (mmol/L).
Your levels of cholesterol should be:
- 5mmol/L or less for healthy adults
- 4mmol/L or less for those at high risk
When it comes to measuring LDLs, the levels should be:
- 3mmol/L or less for healthy adults
- 2mmol/L or less for those at high risk
What’s the best way to lower cholesterol?
Cutting back cholesterol to the levels we were born with reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes by a third, a study found.
There are a number of ways you can cut back, including:
- Maintain a healthy diet which is low in fatty food
- Swap saturated fat for fruit, veg and wholegrain cereals
- Give up smoking
- Take regular exercise
Here’s our healthy wall planner for 2018, to get you on track to a healthier lifestyle.
Also, we revealed how many calories you REALLY need a day – and it could be more than you thought.
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