One of the good things about having a partner who is a naturopath, is that I can pinch the occasional health related post from his Facebook wall! I found this post this morning, and thought it explained cholesterol so perfectly that I had to share it with you! Written by Asa Harrington, awesome naturopath and nutritionist (I’m not biased, it’s true!).
Believe it or not, your liver doesn’t produce cholesterol for the sole purpose of killing you. However, if your total cholesterol is high, you HDL (good) cholesterol is low and your LDL (bad) cholesterol is high over a long period of time, this is a recipe for stroke or myocardial infarction, otherwise known as a heart attack).
So why does cholesterol become high then???
Many people don’t know that cholesterol is one of the main building blocks for cell walls and hormones throughout our body. We need it, it is vital to our daily function and survival. Without cholesterol we would die. But, when we constantly make poor food decisions, drink alcohol, caffeine, smoke, over exercise, stress and don’t get enough sleep, these choices can cause an increase of free radicals or “rubbish” floating around in our bodies. These free radicals are usually neutralized by antioxidants which come in the form of phytonutrients found in plants (especially the brightly coloured fruits and veg), and vitamins such as A, C, and E. So a diet lacking in antioxidants allows these free radicals to cause damage to our cell walls and even to our DNA.
In response to all this free radical damage, our liver produces cholesterol to fix the cell walls. The cholesterol is delivered to the injured area via a LDL transporter and is dropped off at the injured site to repair the damage all is well….. That is, only if your body gets a chance to heal properly and the free radicals are reduced. If the poor lifestyle choices continue, then the LDL’s keep laying down cholesterol. This is not great, particularly when the damage and repair is occurring to the cell wall of an artery. Over time the cholesterol starts to harden into what is called ‘foam cells’. The foam cells then become even harder to form plaque, building up in the arteries, and then all it takes is a clot to form and you are in for a trip to the hospital (and frighteningly, this is often a one way trip).
So instead of addressing the cause of the cholesterol production (those unhealthy lifestyle choices), the doctors will give you medications that reduce the function of the enzyme in the liver that produces cholesterol, stopping you from absorbing fats of any sort in your digestive tract. This then causes deficiencies in essential fatty acids (which increase HDL levels and reduce arterial plaque formation) as well as the absorption of fat soluble vitamins A and E, used to neutralize free radicals. The list of side effects for those cholesterol lowering medications is as long as your arm, and frankly, quite frightening. Yet the majority of Australian adults over 55 are taking this medication… and will continue to do so until they die. Understanding cholesterol production is the first step in making informed choices about the simple things you can do on a day to day basis to improve, not only your cholesterol levels, but also your quality of life!
If you have any questions regarding cholesterol feel free to put them below in the comments section. You may also want to see a naturopath or nutritionist to help you make some positive changes to your lifestyle, and improve your cholesterol levels naturally.