Trimming the fat: Controlling cholesterol

June 16, 2022

Cholesterol is a waxy type of fat, called a lipid, that is present in the blood. It’s a substance that everyone needs—as a building block of healthy cells—but too much of it can lead to fatty deposits in our blood vessels, increasing our risk of heart disease, reports Science Focus.

Indeed, sometimes, those deposits can break suddenly and form a clot that causes a heart attack or stroke

There are two different types of cholesterol—one of them, beneficial; the other, possibly harmful:

  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL).LDL, the “bad” cholesterol, transports cholesterol particles throughout our bodies. This is the cholesterol that can build up in the walls of our arteries, making them hard and narrow.
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL).HDL, the “good” cholesterol, picks up excess cholesterol and takes it back to our livers.

Diet is a key contributor to high cholesterol. The key is to cut down on foods with saturated fat, like cheese, biscuits, cakes, butter, pies, sausages, coconut oil, and fatty meats.

Eating more foods with “unsaturated fats”—such as such as avocados, vegetable oils, nuts, and oily fish—can help us to reduce our levels of LDL.

Exercise also can help lower cholesterol. Even just as using the stairs instead of the elevator, taking a brisk walk, or doing two-minute bursts of activity at home (such as star jumps) can make a difference. Stopping smoking and reducing alcohol consumption also can lower cholesterol.

If lifestyle changes, alone, don’t work, then sometimes medications (called statins) are needed. These are usually taken once a day for life. According to Science Focus, statins can be very effective at lowering cholesterol and, despite sometimes getting a bad press, often they only have few side effects. One widely reported side effect is muscle pain, but most people don’t experience any at all. Statins have been around for over 30 years and have been prescribed to millions of people. In Britain they are estimated to save 7,000 lives annually.

Research contact: @ScienceFocus