Cholesterol is a fat-related substance necessary for good health. It is a normal component of most body tissues, especially those of the brain, nervous system, liver and blood and is needed to form the censored and adrenal hormones, vitamin D and bile (a digestive secretion required for fat digestion). A high level of blood cholesterol, however, increases the likelihood of developing health problems such as heart disease.
Cholesterol levels are measured by a simple blood test. Your healthcare professional can organise this for you, along with other measurements of your cardiovascular health, such as blood pressure testing.
There are five types of cholesterol, but it is the high density and low density cholesterol (HDL and LDL) that we need to look at more closely.
HDL has the ability to clear built-up cholesterol from the arteries and help in its removal from the body - sometimes people refer to it as the "good" cholesterol.
LDL is linked to heart disease and is involved in the fatty build-up on artery walls - known as atherosclerosis, or "hardening of the arteries". This form of cholesterol is sometimes referred to as "bad" cholesterol.
Atherosclerotic plaque on the inside lining of the arteries, impedes circulation and may lead to heart attack and stroke. Cholesterol may also collect in the gall bladder to form gallstones.
Cholesterol levels in the blood depend on both dietary factors and the amount of cholesterol manufactured by the body.
Approximately 75% of cholesterol is produced in the body and 25% is introduced via the diet.
As we age, cholesterol levels generally rise as the body increases production.
Sugar cane wax alcohols is a natural substance derived from the waxy coating of the stems and leaves of sugar cane. It has been shown in numerous clinical trials to lower LDL (â€œbadâ€) cholesterol. It also increases HDL (â€œgoodâ€) cholesterol. As well as improving cholesterol levels, it has an antioxidant effect on LDL cholesterol. It also inhibits platelet aggregation, â€œthinningâ€ the blood.
Antioxidant nutrients such as vitamin C and vitamin E help to protect the body from the effects of oxidation of LDL cholesterol
Coenzyme Q10 also inhibits oxidation of LDL cholesterol
Herbal treatment of high cholesterol focuses on liver health:
Herbs such as globe artichoke, dandelion and milk thistle support and protect liver function and are indicated for the treatment of cholesterol imbalance
Bitter herbal preparations such as dandelion root tea are also traditionally used to support liver function
Remember that cholesterol is not a disease in itself, but a measurement of risk of developing heart disease. It is important to look at your cholesterol level in the context of other risk factors such as family history, body weight and cigarette smoking.
Reduce dietary sources of cholesterol and saturated fats to 20-30% of your daily calorie intake. This involves avoiding animal fats (meat and full-fat dairy products), increasing fish in your diet, and eating more fruits, vegetables, and grains, which are cholesterol-free, virtually fat-free, and rich in fibre.
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