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Cholesterol and Glucose levels – How to keep them at a healthy level and what to do if they’re high

  • Created on the 7 February, 2014.

What is Cholesterol and what does Cholesterol do?

Cholesterol is a lipoprotein that is made in the cells in your body. Although many different cells make Cholesterol, the cells in your liver make about a quarter of the overall total. Cholesterol    isn’t all bad but is an essential fat to our bodies.  Cholesterol is an important part of a healthy body. It provides stability in every cell of your body is required to form cell membranes and some hormones, It is also needed to perform three other main functions including:

  • Help make the outer coating of cells.
  • Makes up the bile acids that work to digest food in the intestine.
  • Allows the body to make Vitamin D and hormones, like oestrogen in women and testosterone in men. 

Although some Cholesterol is good (HDL) some Cholesterol can be very bad (LDL) specifically if we have very high amounts.

So, what is good and bad Cholesterol? 

HDL ‘the good Cholesterol’ is Cholesterol that removes harmful LDL ‘the bad Cholesterol’ from where it doesn’t belong as it flows throughout the bloodstream. While LDL collects in the walls of blood vessels, causing the blockages of atherosclerosis (a potentially serious condition where the arteries become clogged up), HDL acts as a maintenance crew for the inner walls of blood vessels (endothelium). Damage to the endothelium is the first step in the process of atherosclerosis (a potentially serious condition where arteries become clogged up), which causes heart attacks and strokes. HDL chemically scrubs the endothelium clean and keeps it healthy to reduce the chances of heart attack and strokes.

Over time, more LDL Cholesterol and cells collect in the walls of blood vessels. This ongoing process creates a bump in the artery wall called a plaque. The plaque is made of Cholesterol, cells, and debris which continue growing, slowly blocking the artery. HDL helps by reducing, reusing, and recycling LDL Cholesterol by transporting it to the liver where it can be reprocessed.

Blood Cholesterol is measured in units called millimoles per litre of blood, often shortened to mmol/L.

Recommended total Cholesterol levels should be:

  • 5mmol/L or less for healthy adults
  • 4mmol/L or less for those at high risk for example diabetics and people with high blood pressure.

Recommended levels of (LDL) should be:

  • 3mmol/L or less for healthy adults
  • 2mmol/L or less for those at high risk

Recommended levels of (HDL) should be:

  • 1mmol/L or more.

Lower levels of HDL can increase your risk of heart disease.

We recommended having your Cholesterol levels rechecked 2-3 months after adjusting your diet to ensure that you’re Cholesterol levels have reduced.

What is Glucose?

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Glucose, commonly called sugar, is a key energy source that is needed by all the cells and organs in our bodies. Glucose (sugar) comes from the food we eat. It is one of the three dietary monosaccharaides, along with fructose and galactose that absorbed directly into the bloodstream during digestion.  Carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, cereals and even fruit are common sources of glucose.

Normal glucose levels are typically less than 6 mmol/L (millimoles per litre) in the morning, when you first wake up, or before eating. This is known as ‘fasting blood glucose’ or the ‘sugar level’.

What can I do to lower my Cholesterol and blood sugar levels? Are there foods I should eat more of or try to avoid? 

The following dietary principles should be followed closely in order to help reduce blood sugar and Cholesterol levels:

  • Attain normal body weight – Very often losing weight is enough to bring moderately elevated blood Cholesterol    level down to an acceptable level. Weight loss should therefore always be the first step for overweight people.
  • Reduce total fat intake – In the average British diet about 40% of the calories come from fat. One third of this fat comes from meat and meat products, another third from dairy foods and the remainder from margarine, cooking fats and processed foods. It is recommended that the amount of fat eaten should be reduced by a quarter, to provide about one third of the total calories.
  • Reduce saturated fat intake – It is recommended that no more than one third of the total fat intake should be from saturated fat. A molecule of fat (triglyceride) consists of two components: glycerol and fatty acids. Triglycerides do not contain Cholesterol, but more Cholesterol is made in the liver when the diet is rich in triglycerides containing saturated fatty acids. Therefore reducing saturated fat intake helps lower the blood Cholesterol level.
  • Increase your polyunsaturated intake – The polyunsaturated fat in the diet tends to reduce blood Cholesterol levels, it is therefore recommended that at least one third of the total fat intake should be polyunsaturated.
  • Reduce you dietary cholesterol intake – Certain foods, such as eggs and liver, contain very large amounts of Cholesterol. These foods are only allowed in limited amounts.
  • Increase fiber intake – Fiber, especially soluble fiber, helps improve blood sugar control by slowing down the rate that food empties from your stomach, thereby delaying the rise in blood sugar after meals and preventing excess or exaggerated insulin release.
  • Exercise more – Exercise increases HDL ‘the good cholesterol’ and lowers LDL ‘the bad cholesterol’ whilst reducing your risk of diabetes.

To help reduce high blood sugar, attain a healthy BMI (body mass index), waist measurement and exercise more. A diet high in fruit and vegetables is also recommended.  

The following information lists those foods to eat in unlimited amounts or those to be avoided:

Good:

  • All white fish, oily fish, eg herrings and tuna
  • Chicken, turkey, veal, rabbit, game
  • All fresh fruit & frozen vegetables – peas, broad beans, sweetcorn, dried beans and lentils are very high in fibre.
  • Baked potato – eat skins if possible
  • Fresh fruit/Dried fruit
  • Cereals– wholemeal flour, oatmeal flour, wholemeal bread, wholegrain cereals, porridge oats, crispbreads, wholegrain rice, wholegrain pasta, sweetcorn.
  • Walnuts

In moderation:

  • Shell fish
  • Lean portions of ham, pork, bacon, beef, lamb, lean mince, liver, kidney
  • Chips if cooked in suitable oil or fat
  • Avocado pears, olives
  • White flour
  • White bread
  • Sugar coated breakfast cereal
  • White rice
  • Almonds, brazil nuts, chestnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts

Avoid:

  • Fish roe
  • Visible fat on meat (including crackling) sausages, pate, duck, goose, streaky bacon, meat pies, pasties
  • Potato crisps
  • Chips cooked in unsuitable oil or fat
  • Fancy breads eg croissants. Savoury cheese biscuits, cream crackers
  • Cashews

Eggs & Dairy food:

Good:

  • Skimmed milk, skimmed milk cheese eg cottage cheese and curd cheese

In moderation:

  • Edam cheese, camembert, parmesan

Avoid:

  • Whole milk, cream, hard cheese, stilton

 

Remember, your lifestyle plays an essential part in maintaining your long-term health. A healthy diet, moderate drinking, not smoking and plenty of exercise can all help to maintain good overall health.