What Are Normal Cholesterol Levels?
In Ireland, from the age of 40 onwards, you will have your cholesterol levels, blood pressure etc checked on an ongoing basis. This is then measured as a risk assessment, in terms of other medical issues, family history etc.
Cholesterol Levels in the US, are checked from the age of 20 . The advantage is that if you know at an earlier age what your cholesterol level is, the earlier you can make changes and lower your risk!
Total Cholesterol– is the total amount of cholesterol in your blood and should be 5 or less.
HDL Cholesterol (the good cholesterol), ideally this level should be over 1.2mmol/L(women) and 1 for men.
LDL Cholesterol(the bad cholesterol) should be less than 3.
Non-HDL cholesterol is your total cholesterol minus your HDL, so basically all the bad cholesterol and should be 4 or less.
Triglycerides, are a fat in the blood, mainly from food we eat.
Sometimes you will see your TC:HDL ratio. This is your total cholesterol divided by your HDL(good cholesterol) The lower this figure is, the better!
Where do I start if I get told I have a high cholesterol level?
DON’T FREAK OUT!
We start with primary prevention. That means, looking at your diet, how much exercise you get, lifestyle etc. Your doctor will go through your risk profile with you; that means, your blood pressure, weight, family history etc.
In particular, in terms of diet, look at the amounts of fats in your diet. Check out the difference between saturated and unsaturated fats here!
If you are looking for a diet to follow, the Mediterranean Diet has the most evidence for heart health. The Mediterranean Diet also affords protection against a number of other chronic diseases. Check out the Food Pyramids including the Mediterranean Food Pyramid here.
Then you start to make changes to your diet, get more exercise and recheck in 2 to 3 months.
If your cholesterol doesn’t come down, DONT FREAK OUT! You can try again! However, sometimes it means getting prescribed a statin. Getting prescribed a statin is a multifactorial decision and something you have to discuss with your doctor.
More foods to lower cholesterol Levels!
Artichokes,(Cynara cardunculus) when we get them in the store, are the edible portion of a plant. Indeed, the part we are eating are the flower buds before the flowers bloom!
They are full of antioxidants, polyphenols, and contain inulin which can help lower cholesterol(similar to that found in in Cholestero-Low)! Furthermore, the antioxidant capacity of artichokes can help lower blood pressure.
Packed full of healthy micronutrients such Vitamin C,B(folate,riboflavin,B6,thiamine),A,E,D,K as well as calcium, iron, zinc, manganese.
These micronutrients, are great for skin health, via their antioxidant abilities as well as bone health via the calcium
Fruits rich in fibre
Apples, pears and prunes!
Pears are a source of soluble fibres, (such as those in Cholestero-Low!).
Whilst there are no randomised studies on pears as of yet, they have significant health properties including fibre, vitamin C,K, Potassium and Copper.
The benefit of soluble fibre from our diet is well established as a way of lowering cholesterol, protecting against heart disease, diabetes, bowel disease.
Dark chocolate, is produced from cacao beans. These beans, the seed of (Thebroma cacao) contain 44% oleic acid(unsaturated fat), 24% palmitic acid and 33% stearic acid (saturated fats).
Chocolate from cacao beans are also rich in plant phtyochemicals, flavanoids. Flavanoids are natural antioxidants, found in vegetables, fish, tea, & wine and are associated with lower levels of heart disease.
A meta-analysis ( a look a multiple studies bunched together) showed a reduction of LDL levels ( bad cholesterol), and total cholesterol in people taking dark chocolate when compared with a placebo and when compared with normal or white chocolate.