Cholesterol is a type of fat that is vital for life. It is a building block for many metabolic processes in the body including making hormones, supporting cell structure and making bile and essential vitamins such as vitamin D. Cholesterol can be found in certain foods (e.g. meats, dairy products, eggs, seafood especially crustaceans), and is also made by your liver.
Too much cholesterol of the wrong type combined with other health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and weight problems can be detrimental to your health by promoting fatty plaque deposits in blood vessels, known as atherosclerosis, increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition, cholesterol is produced in response to inflammation in the body. This is particularly common as we age and especially in people with chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
Cholesterol - The Good & The Bad
When you get your cholesterol levels checked, we are interested in two main types of cholesterol: high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. HDL is essentially the ‘good’ form of cholesterol while LDL is the ‘bad’ form of cholesterol. If the ratio of HDL:LDL is out of balance (i.e. not enough HDL, too much LDL), this puts you at increased risk of heart disease. Unfortunately in Western medicine the cure for high cholesterol is the administration of cholesterol lowering statin drugs. Whilst these may be effective in lowering cholesterol in the majority of cases they carry a myriad of serious side effects including muscle damage, liver damage, impaired ability to manufacture vitamin D, increased risk of developing diabetes, memory loss and increased risk of developing dementia. They also deplete several key nutrients in the body including coenzyme Q10 the very supplement required for healthy heart, muscles and energy production and zinc required for hundreds of vital chemical reactions in the body. As a result, any one required to take these drugs should supplement with these nutrients. Every case of high cholesterol should be evaluated individually to determine the need for medication. There are many natural supplements which together with diet and lifestyle changes can be very successful in lowering cholesterol even in people with genetic predisposition to high cholesterol.