Cholesterol-A Silent Killer?

If you do not know your blood cholesterol level, STOP whatever you are doing and rush to the nearest health facility to have it checked. The “Invisible Killer” could be stalking you.

I am aware of the many conflicting discussions on cholesterol especially over the past few years, but in my professional opinion one needs to do everything possible to control cholesterol levels. Elevated Cholesterol level is definitely the single most important factor in heart and blood vessel disease and it does not matter whether your source of cholesterol is from your food or dictated by your genes.
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is made in the body by the liver.
Types of cholesterol

For purposes of this discussion, we will simplify the issue by referring to cholesterol and its carriers in the blood as “cholesterol”
Whenever we run a test for cholesterol or a lipid profile we should ideally be given the following breakdown:

• Total Cholesterol
• HDL – considered “good cholesterol” (H for healthy) because takes cholesterol out of the arteries and back to the liver where it is broken down and removed from the body.
• LDL – considered “bad cholesterol” (L for lethal) because if you have too much in your blood stream, it can deposit plaque in and along artery walls and cause blockages to blood flow
• TRIGLYCERIDES – “sugary cholesterol”. The most common type of fat in the body. High levels in the blood can increase your chances of developing heart disease or having a stroke. It is also often elevated in diabetics.

Cholesterol is both hero and villain. We cannot live without it, but in excess amounts it can kill us. The blood cholesterol is the single most important factor in determining a person’s risk for heart disease.

The Beautiful Side of Cholesterol

Cholesterol is important in the following processes:
1. Production of sex hormones
2. Building of strong bones
3. Balancing the body’s stress response
4. Building the cell walls of all cells

The good news is that, we do not have to eat cholesterol. The liver manufactures all that the body needs.

The Bad and Ugly Side of Cholesterol

1. When you have too much cholesterol in your blood, it starts to build up inside the arteries, making them rigid and narrowing the space inside them
2. Rigid arteries cannot expand to allow increased blood flow when you need it and arteries (blood vessels) could rupture in the process. This is a typical scenario in one type of stroke.
3. Sometimes when blood flow is limited, some parts of our body may not receive enough blood and may be damaged as occurs in “heart attacks”
4. There could also be loose lumps of blood blocking smaller arteries. If the artery is completely blocked, some parts of the body can get starved from blood and begin to die. This also occurs in another type of stroke.
What is the Source of Cholesterol?

The liver produces all the cholesterol needed by the body.
1. Cholesterol is found only in animal foods. Plant foods do not contain cholesterol but fats including those from plants can stimulate the liver to produce more cholesterol.
2. Very few people inherit a condition where the body produces excess amounts of cholesterol. The majority of us set our own cholesterol levels through what we eat.

Stop and Think Before Eating These;
1. Fatty meats and processed meats such as sausage and bacon
2. Butter, cheese, ice-cream and full cream milk
3. Mayonnaise and salad creams
4. Pastries
5. Fats and oils (groundnut and palm nut are not excluded)
6. Many fast foods
7. Fried foods such as kelewele, koose and doughnuts

Managing or Preventing High Cholesterol
1. Depending on what we eat, cholesterol levels can go up or down substantially in a few weeks. We should learn to boil, grill, roast or bake food instead of frying. Oats, bran bread, brown rice, beans, vegetables, fruits, onions and garlic are all great choices.
2. Exercise daily. If you are diagnosed with high cholesterol do not get overly aggressive. Start exercising at a low intensity and increase the intensity gradually. Walking, swimming and cycling can do wonders for you.
3. Lose excess weight
4. Stop smoking
5. Reduce alcohol intake
6. You may have a medical condition that may require treatment before your cholesterol can be controlled or you may be taking a medication that is increasing your cholesterol and needs to be changed.
7. Medications to lower cholesterol may be necessary and can only be prescribed by a healthcare professional
If you have been diagnosed with high cholesterol, this may be a great opportunity to turn your life around and start living in a much healthier way. When you have certain medical conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes, your doctor will work with you to get your cholesterol levels lower than someone who has no risk factor.
Do not just stay alive; stay healthy so that you can enjoy the things you like to do.

Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel
Moms’ Health Club/Health Essentials Ltd

Dr. Essel is a medical doctor, holds an MBA and is ISSA certified in exercise therapy and fitness nutrition.
Thought for the week – “You may have elevated cholesterol levels and yet feel absolutely well. Get a blood test immediately!!”

1. Eating to manage cholesterol – Laurene Boateng
2. Health by Choice not Chance by Aileen Ludington, MD et al
3. AstraZeneca patient education materials
4. CVS Pharmacy educational leaflets

Source: Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel