How to lower your Cholesterol

If your doctor has told you your cholesterol is too high, you are not alone. In Australia and New Zealand, around 50% of adults have high blood cholesterol levels.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is part of a large class of biological compounds called steroids. It is the most common type of steroid in the human body, with about 30% coming from the diet, and we make the other 70%, mostly in your liver. Cholesterol is vital for the normal functions and structures of all cell membranes. It is a pre-curser for making bile acids (which aid in the digestion of fats), and for synthesising all steroid hormones, such as sex hormones (oestrogens, progesterone, and testosterone and adrenal hormones).

Why is high cholesterol bad news?

Elevated cholesterol levels are associated with a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the number one cause of death for men in Australia. High levels of cholesterol can cause a build-up of fatty deposits (sometimes referred to as plaque) in the walls of blood vessels. As plaque builds up, it creates a narrowing of the blood vessels, making it harder for blood to pass through the blood vessels. Restriction of the blood vessels can increase blood pressure, and if the vessels become blocked, may result in a stroke or heart attack.

What factors can improve cholesterol?

Improving cholesterol is not always straight forward due to influences of our genes, age, lifestyle and living environment. Gene-related increases in cholesterol generally occur at an earlier age and affect other family members. The majority of people with high cholesterol levels occurs due to ageing, diet and lifestyle factors.

5 Lifestyle changes to improve your cholesterol Levels

  1. Obtain the correct balance of nutrients (proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre). Move toward a plant-based diet that is particularly high in soluble fibre, omega-3 fats, plant protein, tree nuts.
  2. Physical activity, aim to meet the physical activity guidelines: 150-300 minutes moderate physical activity per week, and to include resistance training of major muscle groups two times per week.
  3. Avoid, or cope with stress is the best way to lessen its impact on your cholesterol levels.
  4. Get an adequate amount of sleep and regular sleeping patterns.
  5. Reduce excess weight stored around the waist and your internal organs.

Cholesterol-lowering medications

These medications are successful in controlling cholesterol in many patients. However, for some people, they also yield unwanted side effects. These side effects can include muscle aches, pain and breakdown of muscles, digestive problems, fatigue, and liver problems, especially with long term use. The major disadvantage of these medications is that it becomes a ‘Band-Aid ‘solution for many people. When medications reduce cholesterol levels, people are less likely to address their lifestyle factors that are driving the increase in cholesterol. Relying on drugs alone means over time, more medications and or higher doses will be required, which can result in more side effects and a decrease in health and quality of life.

Make a change today

If being in control of your health as you age is important to you. The smartest treatment option is to start now and address the underlying drivers of high cholesterol. Which ultimately come down to you, deciding to improve your diet and lifestyle, and to get the help you need to do it.  



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