A Change of Heart

Unclogging the Good and the Bad of Cholesterol

Eggs, bacon, butter, cream… For years people have been avoiding certain foods for fear of elevating the dreaded cholesterol – especially since it has a bad association with causing serious heart conditions. However, not all types of cholesterol are bad – some are vital for good health. So, what is the difference between good cholesterol and bad cholesterol?

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol helps produce hormones, cell membranes and aids in digestion. It also plays a role in cognitive function, helping the brain form memories. At normal levels, it’s essential for the body. However, if concentrations in the blood get too high, it becomes a silent danger that puts people at risk of a heart attack.

What is Hyperlipidaemia?

Hyperlipidaemia, or high cholesterol as most people know it, is caused when a person’s diet contains too much cholesterol and fat. Because fat doesn’t dissolve in water, it combines with a protein in the liver to create a lipoprotein, including:

  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL)
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL)

Too much LDL, or bad cholesterol, can build up in the arteries making it difficult for blood to flow through the veins. This process is called atherosclerosis. If a clot forms and blocks a narrowed artery that feeds the heart or brain, it can result in a heart attack or stroke.

However, having high levels of HDL, or good cholesterol, protects the heart by helping to remove the build-up of LDL cholesterol. 

What Are the Symptoms?

Most people with Hyperlipidaemia don’t realise they have high cholesterol because there are no symptoms. However, it can have serious long-term consequences if not managed.

Being overweight or obese, not getting enough exercise, and eating a diet high in saturated fat and carbohydrates low in fruits, vegetables and fibre can contribute to Hyperlipidaemia. Beyond diet, however, there are other factors that can lead to this condition, e.g. suffering from hormonal diseases such as diabetes, hypothyroidism and Cushing’s syndrome. Family genetics also play a big part in Hyperlipidaemia.

Diagnosing Hyperlipidaemia

The only way to check a patient’s cholesterol is through a blood test called a lipid panel. The results of the test shows both the total cholesterol and the level of LDL and HDL circulating in the patient’s blood. A total cholesterol of 200 mg/dL or more is out of the normal range. In this case, a doctor may recommend lifestyle changes or medication based on the individual’s risk profile.

Managing Hyperlipidaemia

The good news is that high cholesterol can be lowered. Changing behaviours will go a long way toward managing the condition. Lifestyle changes that may be required include:

  • Eating a heart-healthy diet
  • Staying physically active
  • Quitting smoking
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight

In order to help members manage their health and wellbeing, Bestmed offers a simple and convenient set of essential health tests, including regular cholesterol and weight check-ups. This Health Risk Assessment is available to all our members free of charge, regardless of their membership option.

Take charge of your health by booking a Bestmed HRA at any Clicks, Dis-Chem, Van Heerden or Alpha Pharm today. 

For more information visit www.bestmed.co.za/wellness,

or send an email to wellness@bestmed.co.za.

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