LDL and HDL: OTT? High Cholesterol Myths Revealed

Cholesterol is dropped frequently into adverts by marketing agencies to try and get us to buy their latest low fat, low salt, low taste offering. We hear regularly the words “high cholesterol” mentioned in the same (short) breath as heart disease, stroke, arteries and atherosclerosis and in the process cholesterol has been demonized. This is unfair, even though we hear a lot about the need to lower cholesterol, when the facts about this molecule are known.
Good, Bad or a Rebel Protein with a Serious Cause

Cholesterol is 100% natural. It is made by humans and other vertebrates and it is an essential part of cell growth. It is harvested from foods by the liver after eating. In between meals it is produced by the liver and secreted into the bloodstream. It is the body’s method of transporting cholesterol from the liver and back that has prompted the split between good and bad in discussions about high cholesterol symptoms, arterial hardening, plaque buildup, and other unsavory conditions.

The molecules responsible for transporting cholesterol around the blood stream are protein complexes called lipoproteins. One type of lipoprotein is termed Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL), which is responsible for carrying the cholesterol from the liver to where it is needed in the body, such as the cell walls. Therefore LDL increase cholesterol levels in the blood stream. The other type is High Density Lipoproteins (HDL) which collects the cholesterol from the blood stream and drops it off back at the liver, and so lowers cholesterol. Recent research now suggests that it is the relative abundance of two of these types of lipoproteins that give a good indication of risk for high cholesterol symptoms. The ratio of LDL to HDL is what your physician will be measuring when he sizes you up for your high cholesterol and heart disease risk. This brought about the monikers “good and bad” that marketers are so fond of.
High Cholesterol – the Reality

The media spin concerning good cholesterol (HDL) and bad cholesterol (LDL) in our food suggests that we should be calculating our lipoprotein ratio at the supermarket. Of course there is some value in physicians knowing this ratio for prescriptions to lower cholesterol, but when it comes to heart disease things get more complicated. High cholesterol is just one of the risk factors in cardiovascular disease. Fitness, activity, weight, genetics and general lifestyle choices are other essential factors. Stop smoking, stop drinking to excess, and get down to the gym will lower your cholesterol. Obvious advice? Yes, and don’t say you haven’t heard it already.

Of course, it is a lot easier to take one capsule a day than to go jogging and there are some pharmaceuticals on the market today for the treatment of high cholesterol symptoms. There are also some other simple ways to lower cholesterol and your risk of heart attack: by just eating well.

Vitamin C – Along with other benefits, vitamin C can also help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. You can get this vitamin from citrus fruits and lots of different vegetables.

Pantothenic Acid – This is gained from eggs, milk, fish, whole grain cereals and broccoli, and is thought to lower cholesterol.

Red Yeast Rice – An ingredient of traditional medicine thought to reduce LDL levels and so reduce high cholesterol symptoms.

Soy Isoflavones, Garlic and Gugul – These three help to lower total cholesterol and increase the HDL/LDL ratio.

CoQ10, Ester C, Vitamin E – Powerful antioxidants that prevent dangerous oxidation of cholesterol that can damage the arterial walls and encourage arterial plaque.