Cholesterol – Types, Causes, Treatments and Tips for Controlling It

From - Originally published in the 2011 Irish Pensioner's Handbook What is Cholesterol? Cholesterol is a fatty ...

From – Originally published in the 2011 Irish Pensioner’s Handbook

Cholesterol cartoon

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fatty substance which is essential for a healthy nervous system, good digestion, and the production of hormones. Your body produces cholesterol and you also get it from your diet, but too much cholesterol in your blood can be dangerous as it builds up on the walls of your blood vessels and leads to narrowing or hardening of the arteries.

There are two main forms of cholesterol:

– LDL cholesterol (low density lipoprotein), known as ‘bad cholesterol’

HDL cholesterol (high density lipoprotein), known as ‘good cholesterol’

Bad Cholesterol – This attaches to the wall of the arteries and causes narrowing, which may contribute to angina, heart attack or stroke.

Good Cholesterol – This cholesterol collects extra, unwanted cholesterol and carries it to the liver where it can be broken down.

How to know if you have High Cholesterol

There are no symptoms to indicate if you have high cholesterol, but a simple blood test at your doctor’s surgery will show your overall level of cholesterol. Depending on the results of this test, your doctor may arrange for you to have a further test that will breakdown the HDL (good) cholesterol from the LDL (bad) and it may be necessary to fast before this test. Check with your doctor.

*Note – one raised reading does not mean you have high cholesterol, as levels may very from day to day.

Causes of High Cholesterol

  • Not taking enough regular exercise
  • Too much fat in the diet
  • Being overweight
  • Family history of the condition

Treatment for High Cholesterol

  • Diet – you may need to see a dietician
  • Exercise decreases ‘bad’ cholesterol and increases ‘good’ cholesterol
  • Weight loss – healthy eating and exercise will help control your weight
  • Medication – your doctor may prescribe drug treatment

9 Tips to Keep Cholesterol Under Control

  1. Eat more fresh fruit and vegetables
  2. Have regular medical check-ups
  3. Cut down on salt in your diet
  4. Eat more high-fibre foods
  5. Avoid being overweight
  6. Choose lower fat foods
  7. Take regular exercise
  8. Go easy on alcohol
  9. Stop smoking

For more details on cholesterol visit the Irish Heart Foundation here: – See more at: