Cholesterol is a type of fatty substance that is found naturally in the body. Some types of cholesterol are essential for the health of the body as it is the building block from which cells are made. Cholesterol produces certain vitamins in the body as well as hormones. But only small amounts of cholesterol is needed to do these functions. Having to high a cholesterol level in the body can lead to heart disease.
High cholesterol brings about a furring of the arteries – you may have heard this refered to as ‘plaque’; causing them to become narrow or blocked. This of course, reduces the flow of blood through the heart.
How does cholesterol get around the body?
High Density lipoproteins (HDL – good cholesterol) and Low Density lipoproteins (LDL – bad cholesterol) carry the cholesterol through the body.
HDL (good cholesterol) is good because if there is excess it carries it away from the arteries and back to the liver where it is broken down and removed from the body – this results in a plus for the heart.
LDL is bad when it is in excess. LDL takes the cholesterol from the liver to the body tissues where it is need for some essential processes, however, too much causes the cholesterol to build up and block the arteries. From this we see that the LDL levels have to be checked and kept to the correct levels to make sure that your heart is healthier.
What should my cholesterol levels be?
Whilst cholesterol is a vital necessity for the body, there are levels that are healthy and above which is not healthy. What is considered health?
For those of us who are healthy the ideal levels are: Total cholesterol below 5.00mmol/l and LDL cholesterol below 3.00mmol/l.
The test for cholesterol is a blood test and is available at your local surgery. You may be asked for fast for 8 – 12 hours before the blood test.
Okay – so you have high cholesterol; what can you do about it? Doctors are prescribing vitamin B3 (Niacin) which is known to lower cholesterol.
How does Vitamin B3 niacin affect cholesterol…
Niacin is especially helpful for people who have low levels of the beneficial form of cholesterol, called HDL (high-density lipoprotein). Vitamin B3 niacin also effectively lowers your triglycerides and LDL (low-density lipoprotein), both of which are factors in your heart disease risk. Vitamins are also cheaper than medical drugs. Doctors prescribe from 1000mg to 1200mg of vitamin B3 niacin per day, though it is a good idea to work up to that level as vitamin B3 niacin has the side effect of causing a prickly flush which can be uncomfortable but which wears off after about 30 minutes.
Statins – the medical drug that is prescribed to treat cholesterol.
Whilst statins do lower cholesterol, there as some serious side-effects: muscle wastage and pain, confusion, forgetfulness, disorientation, fatigue, liver damage, migraines, nausea and diarrhoea that we need to be aware of.
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