Cholesterol is a fat-like substance circulating in
the blood. The body needs a certain amount to maintain cell
membranes and perform other vital functions, but high levels lead to
blocked arteries which can cause a heart attack.
Cholesterol is carried in the blood by two types of protein: low
density lipoproteins (LDL) which carry three-quarters of the
cholesterol, and high density lipoproteins (HDL).
Total blood cholesterol is measured, and separate measurements
are taken of LDL (bad) cholesterol and HDL (good) cholesterol. High
LDL and total cholesterol levels increase the risk of a heart
attack, as does a low level of HDL (below 0.9 millimoles per litre).
Doctors recommend keeping total cholesterol below 5.6 millimoles per
litre, ideally around 5.2 millimoles per litre, and your HDL level
as high as possible.
High cholesterol levels are often linked to a diet rich in the
saturated fat found in animal foods such as beef, butter and
whole-fat dairy products and in coconut oil, palm oil and
hydrogenated oils used in processed foods. This theory is no longer
widely accepted as cholesterol from food is poorly absorbed, and
levels of blood cholesterol are affected mainly by the manufacture
of cholesterol in the body, but the body's production of cholesterol
is certainly stimulated by high intakes of saturated fat.
Excess weight, smoking and lack of exercise also contribute to
high cholesterol levels. Genetic predisposition may also be a
Along with dietary changed, Vitamins C and E and some effective
herbal compounds can help control your cholesterol levels and reduce
the risk of a heart attack. Try taking Vitamins E and C and garlic
together. These are safe for long-term use even if you are taking a
cholesterol-lowering prescription drug.
Vitamin E does not lower your cholesterol directly, but raises
levels of HDL cholesterol and prevents the first step in the
build-up of coronary plaque.
Vitamin C boosts the effectiveness of Vitamin E, and is also
thought to increase the level of protective HDL cholesterol.
Chromium helps to reduce "bad" cholesterol and raise "good"
cholesterol in those people with diets high in refined foods. Diets
lacking in cholesterol-reducing soluble fibre can benefit from the
herb psyllium, or from oat bran, which has a similar action.
Beta-sitosterol can be taken to reduce the absorption of
cholesterol from food and from bile discharged by the liver into the
intestine. Artichoke extract may prove to be an effective
alternative to cholesterol-lowering medications.
If home remedies do not lower your total cholesterol sufficiently
within two or three months, you may need to take prescription drugs.
Conventional drugs reduce heart attack risk by up to 25%. Take
regular exercise to raise your HDL level, and improve your diet by
reducing saturated fats. Substitute oily fish for meat, eat
high-fibre foods (grains, vegetables and fruit), and use olive oil
and mono-unsaturated spreads in place of butter, and include soya
protein (available as tofu and soya milk).
When following these treatments to control and lower Cholesterol,
be sure to adhere strictly to the guidelines prescribed by your
doctor for each one.