What is Cholesterol
How to Control LDL or 'Bad' Cholesterol in Your Life
Cholesterol is a very vital part of our biology. We need cholesterol for certain things. We need cholesterol to stabilize cell membranes, to synthesize certain hormones.
There are good cholesterol and bad cholesterol levels, and we all know that bad cholesterol is bad because that’s the fundamental process that leads to heart disease.
While there are a number of risk factors for heart disease, we know that the most potent risk factor is in fact smoking. However, high cholesterol – because it’s so much more common in a population in general than smoking – is actually the most important risk factor for heart disease at a population level.
Now, that’s good and that’s bad. It’s bad because it’s so common, but it’s good because it is manageable; it is preventable. Through living a healthy lifestyle, eating a healthy diet, low-fat diet, avoiding smoking, exercising and avoiding obesity, we can keep our LDL cholesterol levels low right from childhood all the way into adulthood.
And genetic experiments that have looked at this have clearly supported the idea that if LDL cholesterol is kept low from childhood into adulthood, the risk of heart disease is dramatically reduced.
Sometimes healthy living alone is not enough to control LDL cholesterol, and we need to turn to drug therapy. The statin drugs are an absolute cornerstone in treating not only LDL cholesterol, but in reducing lifetime risk of heart attack, of stroke, and of death due to heart disease.
While statin drugs have been a boon in the fight against heart disease, there are some people who can’t tolerate them due to the side effects, and sometimes the statins just aren’t powerful enough to get the LDL cholesterol under control.
While we do have several other options, we are particularly excited about new drugs and development that we hope to have available to us within a short period of time that will likely further help us in this battle against heart disease.
If you are concerned about your cholesterol level or if you want to learn more, then you absolutely need to consult with your family physician who can assess not only your cholesterol levels, but your risk for developing heart disease and your need for any treatment.
Presenter: Dr. Milan Gupta, Cardiologist, Brampton, ON
Local Practitioners: Cardiologist
How to Reduce Saturated Fats
If you’ve been diagnosed with high LDL cholesterol or you’re just trying to make some heart healthy choices, there are several things you can do with your diet, in particular, lowering your dietary saturated fat.
To do that you should try to aim for lower fat animal products. This will help lower your saturated fat. Choose extra lean ground beef, take off the skin from your chicken and choose meats that are less marbled.
You can also add more fish and nuts and seeds as well as choosing vegetarian meals such as beans, and lentils and chickpeas. And try to get rid of some of those high fat deli meats such as bacon, sausages and salami.
You can also reduce your choice of high fat creamy sauces and choose more tomato sauces instead. And finally, limit your egg yolks. If you can limit egg yolks to only two per week, you’ll lower your saturated fat intake and your cholesterol.
If you’d like more information on how you can lower your saturated fat intake, you can contact your local registered dietitian.
High cholesterol is a chronic condition, and it affects a lot of Canadians. We can’t fix your cholesterol, but we can lower it with medications. Because cholesterol stays up without intervention you need to take these medications for the rest of your life.
Current statistics would suggest that about half of Canadians stop taking their medications within a year to two of starting. The challenge with that is the longer you take your medications the greater the benefit.
And those people who stop their medications early lose the benefit of that therapy. It’s really important when you are prescribed a new medication to talk to your doctor and ask how long do you expect me to take this?
It’s really important that you talk to your pharmacist and say how long do you expect me to take this? And put yourself in a position not to run out of your medications. Work with your pharmacist to ensure that refills are there. Work with your pharmacist to make it easy to take those medications if you face any challenges.
Taking medications over the long term will reduce heart attacks and strokes. If you want more information on cholesterol and the effect of medications and the importance of adherence, talk to your pharmacist – they can help.
Presenter: Mr. Bill Semchuk, Pharmacist, Regina, SK
Local Practitioners: Pharmacist