Cholesterol for dummies

Find out what the numbers mean and how you can lower your cholesterol

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a type of fat which is carried around in your blood. Cholesterol is essential for your body - it is necessary for building cells and it helps to produce some hormones, such as oestrogen and testosterone. Unless you are severely malnourished, your body produces all the cholesterol it needs, so you do not need to eat foods containing cholesterol. There are two types of cholesterol – one good and one bad.

Where does cholesterol come from?

Cholesterol is found in animal products. This includes meat, dairy and eggs. There is no cholesterol in plant products. Although animal products contain cholesterol, it is not necessary to cut them out of your diet. You can safely eat up to six eggs per week, and the benefits you get from eating seafood far outweigh the cholesterol content.

What is bad cholesterol?

The scientific name for bad cholesterol is low density lipoprotein (LDL). It is often referred to as simply LDL. LDL is known as ‘bad’ cholesterol because having high levels of LDL is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral artery disease. If there is too much bad cholesterol in your blood it ends up sticking to the walls of your arteries, which causes your artery walls to thicken and your arteries to narrow, decreasing the blood flow through the area. This process is called ‘atherosclerosis’.

What is good cholesterol?

The scientific name for good cholesterol is high density lipoprotein (HDL). It is often referred to as simply HDL. HDL is known as ‘good’ cholesterol because HDL extracts bad cholesterol from your artery walls and disposes of it through your liver. Good cholesterol helps to protect you against heart disease and stroke.

What is total cholesterol?

Total cholesterol is the sum of all the cholesterol in your blood. This includes HDL, LDL and triglycerides. Triglycerides are not technically a type of cholesterol, but they come with their own health risks, and are often associated with high levels of bad cholesterol.

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    techno nanny
    23rd Nov 2012
    Sorry all you experts out there. I was taking Crestor for 4 years and in that time my cholesterol did go down but I also began to suffer aches and pains in my legs and feet, could not walk any further than 50 mtrs before I had to sit down and get my breath and also Graves" disease. I saw a heart specialist, lung function specialist, endocrinologist, had many scans and CT's for all sorts of reasons and finally began to succumb to dementia where, if I went out in the car, I often would not remember I had a car to drive home in. I also forgot many things connected with family and daily life. My doctor was about to send me to see a neurologist because the head CT and Doppler scan of my neck showed no abnormalities. All the specialists said they could not find any reasons for my illnesses. Last December a cousin told me about a book called "The Great Cholesterol Con" and I also started to search online and found that all my symptoms could be caused by taking statins (which Crestor contains). I stopped taking this and within 3 weeks was back to my NORMAL self, walking for 1 hour every day and with full memory returned. All the symptoms I had had over the last 3 years that no one could find a reason for, all disappeared. So thanks very much, but no more statins for me. I want to stay health, as I am now. I wonder how many people taking statins have been admitted to nursing homes because they had all the same symptoms I had, including early dementia.
    normie 39
    23rd Nov 2012
    I too am on Crestor 20mg and have been for over five years. Have noticed some loss of breath over the past two years and saw a Respiratory Specialist in
    Peter B
    23rd Nov 2012
    Good comment, and a lesson for all.
    The whole cholesterol scare is a discredited theory that sounds logical but has not ever been proven conclusively in any of the hundreds of trials over many years.
    It is primarily a con to get the populace onto profitable drugs for the rest of their lives.
    Do some research and you will find that the bogey of cholesterol is a myth, and is poorly researched by the media. The same old things are trotted out, and so they become truisms.
    Please-do your own research. Lots of good books out there exploding the myth. None that prove it is valid.
    26th Nov 2012
    The Diabetes association recently put out an article saying statins can increase your risk of developing type2 diabetes if you are at risk.
    28th Nov 2012
    I to was on 20mg crestor tablets and had the same symtems described by techno nanny 23 nov i stopped my crestor and instead take fish oil tablets and my dr says my cholestral is fine
    Peter B
    28th Nov 2012
    it is well known that these drugs have nasty side effects, and they are very common.
    Drug companies have taken over and won the argument.
    Now it's too hard for any voice of reason to be heard.
    26th Apr 2013
    Side effects of Lipidor are the same. Doctor put my husband on Lipidor and in six weeks lost 3 kgs (he only weighed 66kgs before the loss), had headaches all the time, couldn't sleep, all joints were aching, energy depletion etc. He stopped taking it after six weeks and said he would reduce cholesterol in other ways (research showed there are ways to do so). Fresh produce is best, remove as much processed food as possible, if not all.
    27th Apr 2013
    I too took Statins for years, I had so many problems so started to look for an answer, as I was getting no where with all the medical advice given to me, I just knew if I kept on as i was i would die, I could hardly walk and my muscles were changing, my breathing and memory were also affected. After many hours looking on the net, reading so many stories about people in the same position, and what they were doing to try to find out what was wrong, one person wrote about their partner who was in a wheelchair and blamed statins, so I thought, this could be the answer, I stopped taking them, and have slowly improved, many of my friends have passed on what happened to me, and in all cases those people stopped the statins and their symptoms improved. I have still got high cholesterol levels after doing everything that I can, my diet is very good, I have been told that my condition is genetic,my liver is just very good at making cholesterol.
    I figure that i would rather take my chances than destroy myself taking that drug, I feel better as I am, my mother and aunts lived until they were 100, and never had heard of cholesterol, I just know if I had continued taking statins I would have been dead by now, I have worked with my doctors and they began to question the medication, I believe that they may well help some, but there are many who they are making life a misery.
    Remember your heart is a muscle too.
    Eat a good diet, exercise and good luck,
    27th Apr 2013
    PS, I take Krill oil, Fish oil, Co Enzyme Q10, and Kyolic Garlic,a multi Vit and a few other things, still have high cholesterol, about 7.8, but I am doing all i can, and at least i am still mobile and independant.
    Peter B
    3rd Aug 2015
    The Insanity of Lowering Cholesterol

    Sally Fallon, the president of the Weston A. Price Foundation, and Mary Enig, Ph.D, an expert in lipid biochemistry, have gone so far as to call high cholesterol "an invented disease, a 'problem' that emerged when health professionals learned how to measure cholesterol levels in the blood."[iii]

    And this explanation is spot on.

    If you have increased levels of cholesterol, it is at least in part because of increased inflammation in your body. The cholesterol is there to do a job: help your body to heal and repair.

    Conventional medicine misses the boat entirely when they dangerously recommend that lowering cholesterol with drugs is the way to reduce your risk of heart attacks, because what is actually needed is to address whatever is causing your body damage -- and leading to increased inflammation and then increased cholesterol.

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