Alternative Cures

  and Natural Health Remedies

In the seventh of our series of informative articles reated to alternative cures, we look at cholesterol.

CHOLESTEROL FOR LIFE!

Cholesterol is a substance that our bodies produce naturally to ensure the correct functioning and smooth running of the machine that is our human body. Without cholesterol, we would not be able to survive, so it is essential to our very existence. Here we take a closer look at what cholesterol is, what it does for us and what happens when things go wrong.

Cholesterol is a constituent of the outer membrane surrounding every cell in our bodies. It is also an insulating tissue for nerve fibres enabling nerve signals to travel properly. It is also used to produce hormones which carry the various chemical signals around our bodies.

When the levels of cholesterol are correct, our bodies function normally, but when those levels get too high there is an increased risk of coronary heart disease and also disease of the arteries.

An unfortunate misconception is that certain foods are laden with cholesterol. In fact, there is actually very little cholesterol found in most foods. The exceptions to this are eggs, offal and some shellfish. More important on the health side of things is the type of fat found in the food you choose to eat, especially saturated fat. Once this is digested, the liver converts saturated fat into cholesterol.

Lipoproteins

If you are worried about your potential risk of heart disease, knowing your cholesterol level isn't enough on its own to tell you. You will also need to know about lipoproteins. These are a type of molecule that transports cholesterol around the body.

There are three main types of lipoproteins:

  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is often referred to as bad cholesterol. It carries cholesterol from the liver to the cells. If too much is produced to be used by the body, a harmful build-up of cholesterol occurs in the bloodstream

  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is better known as good cholesterol. This protein takes cholesterol away from the cells and returns it to the liver where it's either broken down or excreted

  • Triglycerides

The greatest danger to a person's health is when high levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides occur in the bloodstream along with low levels of HDL cholesterol.

So what are considered healthy levels?

In the UK, the average total cholesterol level is slightly above the normal level at 5.5mmol/l for men and 5.6mmol/l for women. Unfortunately, what constitutes healthy cholesterol levels is not standardised. Even doctors disagree to a point about the figures. The UK's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and The Department of Health cholesterol guidelines, which is the policy followed by doctors, are:

  • Total cholesterol: less than 5.0mmol/l

  • LDL cholesterol: less than 3.0mmol/l

To confuse the issue, the Joint British Societies (which is the main group of UK expert societies involved in cardiovascular disease) recommend different levels of cholesterol for people who suffer from or are at risk of coronary heart disease:

  • Total cholesterol: less than 4.0mmol/l

  • LDL cholesterol: less than 2.0mmol/l

  • HDL cholesterol: more than 1.15mmol/l

  • Triglycerides: less than 1.5 mmol/l

These guidelines also match the European recommendations which are more stringent.

In recent years, doctors have come to agree that to decide whether a person's cholesterol levels are dangerous or not, they must be considered in the light of that person's overall risk of heart disease. More importantly, it depends on the correct balance of the different types of lipoproteins, rather than the overall total level of cholesterol. This health risk is then determined by a combination of factors which include age, gender, family history of heart disease, whether a person is a smoker or is overweight, or has diabetes or high blood pressure.

For example, a male smoker with high blood pressure and diabetes would have a higher risk of heart disease. In his case, there would be a greater need to reduce the levels of cholesterol.

Should someone have little risk of heart disease, the necessity to strive to keep their cholesterol levels down below the 5mmol/l recommended limit is even more controversial. Some experts believe that the lower the cholesterol level, the better the chances of preventing heart disease. They argue that because cholesterol-lowering drugs for the most part appear to have few, minimal side-effects, almost everyone should take them.

But others argue that the evidence from research doesn't show any benefits for those in low-risk groups such as women with no history of heart disease. They also highlight recent concerns about side-effects, arguing that damage to muscles or the kidneys can result in their long term use.

Unfortunately, with anti-cholesterol drugs now being sold at pharmacies without prescription, the important decision about controlling cholesterol is being given to consumers allowing them to bypass the advice of their doctors.

Is there an alternative to these drugs?

Yes, of course there is. A natural, whole person approach needs to be taken by taking a close look at diet and altering it to a healthier one. This is important if your diet is made up of too much in the way of high trans-fat, animal fat, refined sugar and refined cereals along with sweet, fizzy drinks, excessive alcohol and junk food.

This means cutting down on fats, especially trans-fats and replacing saturated fats with unsaturated alternatives. There are also many foods that may help you to lower your cholesterol levels. These include garlic, onions, soya, oats, corn and selenium-enriched cereals. You should also include plenty of green leafy vegetables, fresh fruit and fibre in your diet to ensure more efficient digestion of the food that you eat.

Taking regular exercise will also help especially if you lead a sedentary lifestyle.

One in five hundred people suffers with high cholesterol levels due to an inherited problem. This is known as familial hyperlipidaemia and if you believe it includes you, there is more information at:

Heart UK



Author: Terry Didcott

Word Count: 962
Date Submitted: 2nd June 2007



Disclaimer:

All content contained in this article is provided for general information only. It should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or other health care professional. The author is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based on the content of this article, neither is he liable for the contents of any external internet sites listed. Always consult your own doctor if you are in any way concerned about your health.


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