Cholesterol – Managing your cholesterol can save your life.

The content originally appeared on: The Barnacle News

By: The Grenada Food and Nutrition Council

A large percentage of deaths recorded in Grenada are as a result of complications related to heart disease and heart failure. A major contributing factor to health diseases and heart failure is Cholesterol, which affects the human body in different ways. High and Low Cholesterol have varying effects on the body which can be life threatening. 

According to the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute, Cholesterol can be defined as “a waxy, fat-like substance that your body needs for good health, but in the right amounts”. Cholesterol is transported in the blood by lipoproteins which are tiny particles made of fat and proteins that travel in the bloodstream to cells throughout the body. There are two types of cholesterol: Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad cholesterol” and High- density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good cholesterol”. When there is an unhealthy level of cholesterol in the bloodstream it leads to conditions like Cardiovascular Disease, Stroke, Diabetes, Artery Disease and Hypertension.

Poor lifestyle choices like unhealthy eating habits, lack of exercise and physical activity and hereditary factors can lead to unhealthy cholesterol levels which is essentially high levels of bad cholesterol which causes plaque to form or build up in the blood vessels, eventually block them causing fatal conditions such as a stroke and heart attack. Having HDL or good cholesterol, however, lowers the risk of heart disease as it helps the body to break down plaque and improves blood circulation.  

Eating an unhealthy or unbalanced diet containing large portions of red meats such as beef, pork, and lamb and processed foods like sausage and ham can lead to bad cholesterol. Additionally, full-fat dairy foods such as cheese, margarine, shortening, butter, heavy cream, and whole milk also contribute to bad cholesterol together with fried foods and large amounts of baked goods and sweets.  

A simple lipid profile or lipid panel test conducted by a doctor or health care provider would determine if your cholesterol is high or low because it checks for LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, Triglycerides and total cholesterol levels. The health care provider would then be able to determine the best possible treatment for your condition.  

It is important to visit a Dietician or Nutritionist if diagnosed with Hyperlipidemia or dyslipidemia, so that the appropriate nutrition counseling will be provided. A Nutritionist or Dietician would also be able to develop a heart-healthy and low-cholesterol diet to help improve your cholesterol. This meal plan may include foods like whole grains, fruits and berries, Nuts, polyunsaturated fats like certain vegetable oils, high fiber foods like beans, peas, edible seeds and green leafy vegetables and lean poultry and fish.