Cholesterol Facts You Should Know before taking medication

The body uses cholesterol to make bile acids, which are necessary for proper food digestion. It's also a vital part of adrenal and sex hormones (oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone), and it helps the body manufacture vitamin D.

What is it?

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Cholesterol is not a fat. Biochemically it's called a "sterol." It contains no calories, so the body cannot derive any energy from it. It forms an integral part of the cell membranes throughout your body, sort of like the mortar that holds the brick wall together. It is particularly important in the cellular structure of the brain and central nervous system and is an important component of the myelin sheath that provides insulation to the nerves.

Only the cell membranes of animal tissue contain cholesterol. Cell membranes of plants do not . It is essential to life and our the body makes all the it needs. You normally can live quite well, even better, with eating pleating more.

It enters the body from saturated fats in animal sources, such as meat, poultry, egg yolks, liver, butter, cheese, and other dairy products. It goes to the liver and from there it  is transported from the liver to the cells by low density lipoproteins (LDL), that carries it through the bloodstream, stopping at cells and depositing it to the cells that need it. If a cell already has enough  it "refuses delivery".  Any excess  being carried by the LDL stays in the blood where the cholesterol is deposited in the walls of arteries, causing atherosclerotic plaque. The more plaque that builds up, the narrower the arteries become, until eventually the blood supply to vital organs is reduced. This is why LDLs are known as the "bad cholesterol." but that is not fair because it does bring it to the cells.

Our body is well designed to take care of this problem because the high-density lipoproteins, or HDLs  travel like through the bloodstream, picking up excess cholesterol in the bloodstream, and also possibly sucking the cholesterol from the fat-laden plaques. The HDLs carry this excess  back to the liver, which converts it to bile, which is eliminated into the intestines. How your liver handles this is determined primarily by genetics, and secondarily by your diet.

While this is an oversimplification of a complicated biochemical process, the medical profession came to two conclusions:

  1. Any diet that raises cholesterol and LDLs and/or lowers HDL is bad
  2. Prescribe medicine to fix that.

Let’s stop right now about medical intervention and consider if a change in our diet might be simpler and safer

The facts are that for most people, about eighty per cent of the cholesterol in their blood is made by their own body, with the rest coming from their diet. In fact, your body needs it so much that it makes around 3,000 milligrams per day all by itself that's ten times the maximum recommendation for daily dietary intake.

Ok, now we come to the normal marvelous design of our body; normally, when a we eat high bad foods, the liver reduces its own production to keep blood cholesterol at a healthy level.

However, it is estimated that around thirty per cent of people are sensitive to the effects of dietary intervention. In such sensitive individuals, this internal monitoring mechanism doesn't operate, so that their levels goes up when they eat 'bad' foods because the liver doesn't shut down its own production.

One theory that explains this sensitivity is that humans are by nature vegetarians. Originally, human bodies were not genetically equipped to metabolize dietary cholesterol, since plants are do not have it. As the human diet began to include animal products, some people's bodies developed metabolic ways to dispose of the excess and some didn't. People who descended from the ones that didn't adapt are the sensitive ones.

Gender differences.

Women tend to have higher levels of HDL than men, since female sex hormones release HDL and male sex hormones lower HDL. At menopause, oestrogen production drops, and so does HDL. Just another mid-life biochemical quirk that should stimulate menopausal-age women to start an HDL-raising exercise program.

Does Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) help?:

This is one of the vitamins heavily involved in the Immune defence system, protection from viruses and bacteria, healing wounds, reducing cholesterol, cell lifespan and preventing scurvy. In simple terms, scurvy is when the skin breaks down and holes form. Vitamin C stops this. In wounds, it helps bring the edges of the wound together to make sure the skin is made whole again. Not enough causes tiredness, but bleeding gums and wounds that are very slow to heal are a good indication. Large doses can cause diarrhoea and nausea and may damage your DNA. Vitamin C is not naturally made by the body and needs to be ingested by eating fresh fruits and vegetable Note:  boiling (including in can or bottles) or leaving it in sunlight and heat generally will destroy it. Smoking tobacco is not helpful. Of course, there are tablets of Vitamin C but remember it is better to eat food rather than tablets

What foods should I eat

Food has only a small effect on the (LDL)  in your blood.  Here are a few ideas however you should discuss this with local experts on dietary nutrition.

  • Fruit and vegetables
    • A good way of eating fresh fruit and vegetables is to only eat those that are in season right now and grown locally. The practice of shops importing food from everywhere in the world so customers can eat say apples everyday is not good because to achieve this the supplier has to pick them earlier before being fully ripe and coats them to avoid moisture escaping
  • Eating healthy fats
    • This helps the  balance by decreasing LDL and increasing the good (HDL).
      • You can include offal (e.g. liver, pâté and kidney) and prawns.
      • Eggs are very nutritious. They contain good quality protein, lots of vitamins and minerals, and healthier polyunsaturated fat.
      • Enjoy fish, particularly oily fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines etc which are high in good fats at least 2 times a week
      • Use olive oil or canola oil in cooking instead of vegetable oils or butter
    • Nuts and Grains
      • Try a handful of nuts as a snack instead of crisps etc
      • Eat porridge
    • Do I have to stop eating everything that is bad for me?
      • No of course not
        • The idea is to help your body by eating enough to produce 30 mg per day so if you really love butter eat it.
        • Fruit and vegetables are ok but beef for example is not so eat less beef and eat more vegetables to make you feel full
        • Eggs have only a small effect so you can enjoy up to 6 eggs each week

How often should I check my cholesterol?

Depending on age usually every 4 to 7 years is standard however if you are taking medication instead of changing your diet you may have to do it more regularly.

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