Cholesterol has a rotten reputation, but it’s not all bad for the body. There’s “good cholesterol” and “bad cholesterol,” and learning the difference between the two, and how to control them, can help keep us healthy.
LDL and HDL are the two basic kinds of cholesterol, but it can be hard to keep up with the acronyms and remember which is which. In this article we share a few memory tricks that can help you remember which is which, and we offer some simple lifestyle tips to help lower your bad cholesterol and improve your good cholesterol. Here’s a hint: sitting less is a good start!
L IS FOR LOWER
Where cholesterol is concerned, L stands for “lower” and “less,” because LDL is the “bad” cholesterol that we should try to avoid. LDL are low density lipids or low density lipoproteins. LDL is the cholesterol that clogs your arteries and raises your risk of heart attack and cardiovascular disease. They are small blobs of cholesterol and fat proteins that float through your veins and arteries and cause inflammation, clogs and blockage. These can eventually lead to blood clots and heart attacks, just like when the gunk in your kitchen sink clogs your drain.
Harmful high cholesterol foods you should avoid include:
Fatty cuts of meat
Full fat dairy products
Deep fried foods
Processed meats such as sausages, bacon and hot dogs
Processed sweets such as cookies, cakes and pastries
What About Eggs?
The Heart Foundation and current research states that most people don’t need to worry about eggs and cholesterol. Eggs are very nutritious. They contain good quality protein, lots of vitamins and minerals, and healthier polyunsaturated fat. The dietary cholesterol in eggs has only a small effect on blood LDL cholesterol, so you can enjoy up to six eggs each week as part of a healthy balanced diet.
H MEANS HIGHER
HDL, by contrast, are high-density lipids or high-density lipoproteins. They are stiffer and denser than LDL, so they can clear out the LDL clogging your arteries, like bristles on a broom sweeping your veins clear. This one is easy to remember, too—H stands for “higher,” because you want more of this kind of cholesterol relative to your LDL levels.
Once you know the difference between HDL and LDL, you’re well on your way to taking the reins to improving your overall health by monitoring your cholesterol levels.
The Mediterranean diet is a good place to start to increase levels of HDL. Research has shown this style of eating is associated with better cholesterol and overall health. Start incorporating the following Mediterranean-style and HDL-friendly foods into your daily diet:
Beans and legumes
High fibre fruit
Flax seeds and flaxseed oil
The science is simple: we want lower LDL, and higher HDL, and making simple lifestyle changes are an easy way to accomplish this simple goal. Replacing sitting with standing is a great way to lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol, which can significantly improve your cardiovascular health and even lengthen your life! If you need more help on creating a healthy diet or improving your eating habits – talk to our dieticians about some simple ways to improve your diet and lifestyle!
THE SCIENCE OF SITTING
It’s what’s in your body that counts, far more than what you consume in your food. This means that whatever your diet is, you can still control your cholesterol by controlling your lifestyle, engaging in activities that boost good cholesterol and avoiding those that raise bad cholesterol.
Sitting is associated with heart disease and this is partly because of its effect on the body’s cholesterol levels. There are plenty of studies linking sedentary lifestyles to cholesterol levels. One study found that people who watched four hours of TV or movies per day had higher LDL levels and significantly lower HDL levels than those who didn’t.
If extended sitting is linked to high LDL levels, it makes sense that switching to standing and other kinds of movement is linked to lowering LDL. Studies show that replacing sitting time with standing time lowers bad cholesterol, raises good cholesterol and lowers blood sugar levels. Replacing sitting time with stepping had even greater benefits, including total body mass reduction and a significantly trimmer waist.
Are you concerned or confused about your cholesterol levels? Contact Full Circle Wellness on 07 5456 1599 for a consultation with our Sunshine Coast dietitian and/or exercise physiologists for advice specific to your health.