Smorgasbord Health Column – Why we need Cholesterol in our bodies by Sally Cronin


I often get emails from readers of my books about the basic key indicators that are essential to keep us alive and healthy – These are LDL Cholesterol levels – Blood Pressure and Blood Sugar Levels…Last time  I looked at the role of statins in the body including the long term side effects and also some of the statistics regarding heart attacks that would indicate that the mass prescription of this drug is not doing its job.

Why we should all respect cholesterol and manage its levels in our bodies.

I respect and manage my cholesterol levels because without it there are certain vital functions in my body that would not happen.

  • I am rather attached to my steroidal hormones, including the sterol Vitamin D (thinks it’s a hormone), that keeps me happy in the winter, free of colds and flu.
  • It also keeps my bones strong by regulating calcium in my blood and other vital components such as cortisol, there when I need it to deal with stress.
  • Also the DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone), very important for my bone density now I am in my 60’s as well as helping keeping me young and remembering what happened yesterday.
  • I was grateful for my progesterone in my younger days that kept my periods more or less regular and for the oestrogens that developed me into the woman I was and remain today.
  • I am also hoping that my cholesterol, which is very important for my eyesight will prevent me from developing cataracts in my 70’s and 80’s.
  • Or from developing Dementia and keeping me active until a ripe old age.
  • I am also grateful for the so called unhealthy cholesterol (LDL) Low Density Lipoprotein that rushes to repair small tears in my arteries when they are damaged. It is not the LDL’s fault that due to our dietary choices and lifestyle that it feels the need to clump and perhaps block that same artery.
  • And although I am female, I appreciate that cholesterol levels need to be maintained in males so that they can remain virile which I covered in my men’s health book

Sound flippant?

A little yes, but not so flippant as the suggestion that everyone over the age of 50, whatever their current cholesterol readings should be given Statins or other cholesterol lowering drugs. A subject that I covered in last week’s post : Statins, Heart Disease and Choest

My feeling is that the NHS has given up trying to educate its clients into adopting a healthier diet and exercising more, and is going with the mass medication option because they say it will prevent cardiovascular disease and dementia down the line. Quite frankly, they are terrified – they have an aging population- who are going to be more likely to develop heart disease, cancer, and dementia simply because the natural process is deterioration.

However, without the protection of healthy forms of cholesterol many functions in the body are compromised including brain health and our sex drive.

What is ‘flippantly’ ignored is that cholesterol is not some demon substance that has invaded our bodies and is rampaging out of control through our blood stream, but essential to our fundamental health and well-being. There are a number of people who are genetically prone to cholesterol health issues (Familial hypercholesterolemia), and of course then medication may be the right decision, but it should never be something that is given to all.

There are some lifestyle and dietary changes that we can all make to make sure that the cholesterol in our bodies is getting on with its job and not causing us health problems, but before I move onto the solutions, I would like to spend a little exploring the reasons for the interactions that are taking place and resulting in clogged arteries.

Cholesterol is carried in the bloodstream attached to proteins which is how we get the term lipoprotein. I admit that I do use the term lousy cholesterol for low density lipoprotein – because this is the one that can get contaminated and cause health problems. Although when talking about cholesterol we refer to high density lipoprotein and very low density lipoproteins (not usually in substantial amounts) as well, they are all the same molecularly but have different packaging to be transported in the blood stream.

HDL and LDL sub divide into different types of lipoproteins and at the moment more is still to be discovered about this.

The LDL is associated with the plaque that forms in the arteries leading to blockages – the smaller the size of the LDL particles the more you are likely to develop coronary disease than if the particles are larger and less dense. If the walls of the arteries are damaged in any way, the smaller and denser particles of the LDL rush to the break in the tissue and start clumping together to form the plaque to block the tear. Unfortunately if the arteries have become stiffer with age or lack of nutrients in the diet such as Vitamin C, the clump can block the artery resulting in potential life threatening blockages to blood flow. The plaque if distributed over a wide area of artery wall will cause it to stiffen decreasing blood flow further. HDL particles are too big to fulfill this role and are therefore considered the healthy form of cholesterol.

In essence then, whilst the LDL cholesterol does have a role in the body there are strong indications that if there is already weakness in the artery it will attract the smaller particles that will then clump forming the harmful plaque leading to coronary disease. There is another problem with LDL cholesterol which is oxidation – this is where the particles react with free radicals, produced through a number of activities including smoking and eating a diet high in unhealthy fat as found in processed foods, crisps, pastries and cookies.

In my next post I am going to focus on what happens when that oxidation of LDL takes place and why the HDL is accepted as the healthier cholesterol. Also how making some simple changes to the food pyramid and our lifestyle can help maintain a healthy cholesterol balance in the body..

I recently ran a series that might help you get started on becoming healthier:Project 101 – Resilience – An opportunity to get fighting fit – Round Up

 

©sally cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2020

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-two years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse my health books and fiction you can find them here: My books and reviews 2020

Your feedback is always welcome and if you do find that following any of the posts that I have shared are beneficial then it would be great to hear about it. If you have any questions you can email me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com.