Cholesterol: Everything you need to know
Cholesterol often has a negative connotation, but we cannot live without it. Our body needs it to function properly. Cholesterol is a fat that builds the body cells and produces hormones, vitamin D and bile. Cholesterol only becomes dangerous when there is too much of it in our body. A high cholesterol increases the risk of cardiovascular disease which is linked to a lower life expectancy.
It is often said that the lower your cholesterol level is, the better it is for you. However, our body needs a certain amount of cholesterol which why the level of cholesterol should not be too low either.
What exactly is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a white, fat-like substance that builds the body cells and produces hormones, vitamin D and bile. In other words: it is indispensable for our body. The liver balances the amount of cholesterol the liver produces and the level of cholesterol in the blood. Our liver normally produces on average 70% of our cholesterol. The amount of cholesterol produced by the liver is partly influenced by our lifestyle. A poor eating habit, smoking and insufficient exercise can disturb this balance. In addition to poor nutrition, heredity, an underactive thyroid, obesity, type 2 diabetes can also play a role.
Good and bad cholesterol
You now know what cholesterol is, but did you know there is good and bad cholesterol?
LDL: Bad cholesterol
LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol is also known as “bad cholesterol”. A high level of this types of cholesterol will increase the risk of hear disease. In addition, it is also linked to a lower life expectancy, an increased risk of cancer and psychiatric conditions including depression, aggression and suicidal thoughts.
HDL: Good cholesterol
HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol is known as “good cholesterol”. HDL protects you against cardiovascular disease. The HDL particles ensure that the excess cholesterol is transported to the liver, where it can be broken down.
When is your cholesterol level too high?
A healthy cholesterol level is below 190 mg/dl (Belgium), which is equal to 5 millimoles per liter (Netherlands). The average, healthy person has a cholesterol level of 150 mg/dl or 3.9 mmol/l. Every day about 1 gram of cholesterol is eliminated (via bile salts) and produced, depending on your diet.
In addition to the total cholesterol level, the level of triglycerides (precursors of cholesterol) and the ratio of LDL and HDL cholesterol also play an important role. You can check your own cholesterol level or you can have this done by your doctor. By doing a test yourself, you take a drop of blood and put it on a strip. You will immediately get the result. The type of test measures the cholesterol level in your blood. The disadvantage, however, is that this test measures the total cholesterol level and not the exact amount of HDL as well as LDL cholesterol.
Overview of healthy cholesterol levels:
Total cholesterol level: lower than 190 mg/dl blood
LDL cholesterol level: lower than 115 mg/dl blood
HDL cholesterol level: higher than 40 mg/dl blood
Total cholesterol/HDL: max. 4,75
Factors that may effect the cholesterol level in your blood:
- Too many carbohydrates and sugar
- Too many saturated fats
- Too much alcohol
- Lack of antioxidants
- Stress increases the production of cholesterol in order to produce a sufficient amount of cortisol
- Lack of omega-3
- Lack of exercising
- Lack of fibres
- Disturbed intestinal flora
How to lower your cholesterol level?
Thanks to a healthy lifestyle, you can influence the cholesterol level in your blood. It will also increase the good HDL cholesterol level.
1. Quit smoking
Smoking increases the risk of heart disease, which is only one of the many disadvantages of smoking for your health.
2. Exercise sufficiently
Try to exercise for at least 30 minutes daily to boost your health.
3. Strive for a healthy weight
Obesity is often linked to an elevated blood cholesterol level.
4. Eat healthy food
Eat balanced and varied according to the principles of the food triangle. Foods that are high in saturated fat can raise your cholesterol level. Foods you should avoid: fatty meats, fried snacks, chocolate, pastries, full-fat quark and 48+ cheese.
Which foods should you be eating to lower your cholesterol level? Oatmeal and bran, oily fish (mackerel, herring, tuna and salmon), nuts (walnuts and almonds), soy and tofu.
5. Regularly check your blood pressure
An increased blood pressure can be a symptom of arteriosclerosis or another cardiovascular disease.
6. Use salt moderately
Too much salt can stimulate the development of cardiovascular disease.
7. Be extra careful if your sugar level is increased
Too much sugar will put extra strain on your vascular system, which will lead to an increase of the risk of cardiovascular disease.
8. Ask your pharmacist or doctor about cholesterol-reducing dietary supplements
It is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle (a healthy eating pattern and sufficient exercise) and take all of above items into consideration. However, if you are part of to a high-risk group, if a high cholesterol level is a heriditary problem, if you already have a cardiovascular disease (e.g. a heart attack, angina, cerebral haemorrhage or thrombosis), if you are obese or smoke, dietary supplements or medicines are recommended.
Cholesterol-reducing dietary supplements
If you are not managing to stick to a healthy eating pattern or you cannot fit in a sufficient amount of exercise into your life, you could try and find a dietary supplement that will have a positive effect on your cholesterol level. At Optiphar you can find dietary supplements for a high cholesterol that are formulated with red yeast rice, lecithin or garlic.
Red yeast rice contains monacolin K, a natural statin that is said to have a cholesterol-lowering effect. If your body does not respond well to red yeast rice, we recommend you to try Vistasterol. Lecithin is a phospholipid that is present in each cell of our body and has a beneficial effect on the metabolism and the cholesterol level. At Optiphar you can also find cholesterol-reducing dietary supplements formulated with garlic.
Best-selling dietary supplement to reduce your cholesterol level:
5. Arterin Plus
1. Tilman Cholesfytol Plus contributes to a healthy cholesterol level. This supplement reduces oxidation of (bad) cholesterol (LDL).
- Formulated with red rice yeast and olive extract.
- Anti-oxidative effect.
- Supports controlling the 'bad' cholesterol levels.
- Contributes to the maintenance of normal blood pressure.
- Contains 2 times more olive extract than the regular product Tilman Cholesfytol.
Usage: Take one tablet of Tilman Cholesfytol a day before going to sleep.
2. Natural Energy Normochol is a dietary supplement that contributes in a natural way to reducing the cholesterol level without any side effects. One capsule of Normochol contains 600 mg of fermented red rice. The fermented red rice in Normochol contains monacolin K. Monacolin K is scientifically proven to help maintain normal blood cholesterol levels with a daily intake of 10 mg.
Usage: Take 2 to 3 capsules of Natural Energy Normochol a day with a glass of water before going to sleep.
3. VistaSterol is a dietary supplement based on pure plant sterols to help control the cholesterol level.
- Is excellently tolerated because its action only takes place at the level of the intestine and not in the bloodstream.
- With added plant sterols: substances that are naturally present in fruit and vegetables, but only in very small quantities. Their chemical structure is similar to that of cholesterol, without having the negative properties of cholesterol. If enough plant sterols are ingested, they compete with the cholesterol present in the diet during the digestion process. As a result, less cholesterol is absorbed into the bloodstream. The positive effect of this is a decrease of the cholesterol level. A high blood cholesterol level is a risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease.
- VistaSterol is generally very well tolerated.
Usage: One tablet of VistaSterol a day contributes to maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. Two tablets of VistaSterol reduce the cholesterol level.
4. Mannavital Red Yeast Rice Platinum helps to control the cholesterol level.
This supplement supports healthy cholesterol levels and contributes to the maintenance of healthy blood vessels.
- Contains 10 mg of monacolin K and 100 mg co-enzym Q10 per 2 capsules.
- Traditional fermentation process.
- No gluten, lactose or sugars.
Usage: Take 1 capsule of Mannavital Red Yeast Rice twice a day.
5. Arterin Plus helps to control the cholesterol level in an efficient way. This supplement contributes to the maintenance of healthy blood vessels.
- Formulated with Monacolin K and the Co-enzym Q10.
- Proven efficiency.
- Without citrinine and aflatoxins.
Usage: Take one tablet of Arterin Plus a day during your meal, preferably in the evening or as recommended.