Cholesterol is a natural waxy substance found in the body and, although you may find it hard to believe, a certain amount is indispensable for the proper functioning of all the body’s cells.
The two main sources of cholesterol are: on the one hand, synthesis, especially in the liver and, on the other, through your diet, from foods of animal origin, such as meat and full fat dairy products.
There are two types of cholesterol, HDL and LDL, also known as good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. I bet that sounds familiar! Am I right? “Bad” cholesterol is what sticks easily on artery walls and blocks them, whereas “good” cholesterol lacks this capacity to stick on arterial walls. To simplify, what you need to do is to reduce the figure for LDL and raise that for HDL How? With a heart-healthy lifestyle.
What are ideal cholesterol levels?
There is really no ideal cholesterol level to fit everybody, although there are a series of risk factors that increase cholesterol levels. For example, smoking, obesity, an inappropriate diet, lack of exercise, high blood pressure, diabetes and, last but not least, a family history of heart disease.
The fact that 81% of Spanish people over 25 are unaware of their cholesterol levels because they have never had them measured is striking. It this is your case, it is important for you to find out as elevated cholesterol levels show no symptoms or physical signs and having high levels of cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease, the biggest cause of death in the world. What are you waiting for? Go and have yourself checked.
Less than 200 mg/dl of cholesterol in the blood is the recommended level as anything above this is considered abnormal cholesterol levels. In order to prevent elevated blood cholesterol levels, you need to have a healthy lifestyle, eat healthily, aim at and maintain an ideal weight and do physical activity regularly.
What should you eat and which foods should you try to cut down on?
A Mediterranean diet implies a healthy lifestyle and is characterised by a large consumption of fruit, vegetables, leafy vegetables, pulses and cereals, and whose fat contribution comes from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat, present in fish and olive oil and seed oil. Therefore, you should limit your intake of sweet things and sugary drinks, meat rich in fat, processed meat, full-fat dairy products, foods whose labels indicate the use of hydrogenated oils or vegetable oils, fried foods, etc. In addition, you are advised to avoid alcohol and give up smoking.
Lastly, we would like to focus on what you can eat. Increase your intake of fruit and vegetables. Eat foods that help reduce your cholesterol levels, such as plant sterol-enriched dairy products and healthy fats. This type of fat can be found in olive oil, nuts- like walnuts – and oily fish. Back this diet up with physical exercise and that’s it, your cholesterol will be kept in check.