14th Mar 2019
Helen Seymour is in Peri-Menopause, or at least she thinks she is. In her weekly column, we follow her on her journey towards the Menopause, learning as she does all about the big M.
My friend Steph messaged me after last week’s article to say her cholesterol level was 5, which is the magic number we all want. Steph celebrates her 50th Birthday soon, and that five-star rating is the best present she could have given herself. Well done Steph !!
Last week I discussed my incredible cholesterol drop (8.3 down to 6.7) which I am attributing 100% to my HRT programme. However, HRT is not an option for everyone, so here’s a helpful programme that you might find effective.
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Know your number, Establish your risks
Get your cholesterol tested. What number are you? Examine your family history of cholesterol, heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity. These are the wider issues circling your number, that increase your risks.
Set your goals
Generally speaking, these are the levels you want:
- a total cholesterol of 5mmol/L or less,
- a non HDL-cholesterol of 4mmol/L or less
- an LDL-cholesterol of 3mmol/L or less
Change your diet
Making a few changes to your diet can help bring your numbers under control.
Reduce Saturated Fats
Saturated fats are animal products like red meat, whole fat dairy, eggs, vegetable oils, palm and coconut oils.
You don’t have to cut these foods out, but moderate your intake.
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Ditch Trans Fats.
Trans Fats are artificial fats, manufactured through a chemical process that turns liquid vegetable oil into a solid. Foods high in trans fats include fried foods, fast food, and baked goods. These foods are low in nutrition, make you put on weight and raise your LDL.
Eat the Good Stuff.
Foods that help lower LDL include whole grains (oats and barley), nuts and seeds, avocados, beans, oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring, all soy-based products, and fresh fruits like apples, pears and berries. Incorporate more of these into your diet.
Foods that also help are food products (yoghurts, kinds of margarine, orange juices) that have been fortified with sterols and stanols, which are natural alternatives to Statins and have proved very effective. Benecol is a well-known reputable brand, worth checking out.
Supplements & Health Food Products
There are several you can consider. Cayenne pepper blasts that sticky LDL off the arteries. Take a cayenne pepper tablet daily. Other supplements positively reviewed include extract of artichoke, soluble fibre, blond psyllium, red yeast rice, niacin, omega fish oils, flaxseed, ginger, and garlic. Drop into your local health store and start taking some of these in daily, as part of your overall health routine.
Get more active
A fast walk or bike ride each day can boost your HDL cholesterol levels, which helps to sweep excess LDL out of your bloodstream. Try to get in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise five days a week.
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Look at your weight
Carrying extra weight around your middle section can increase LDL and lower HDL. Losing just 10% of your body weight will help bring down your numbers.
Cigarette smoking exacerbates the detrimental effects of LDL on your body. When you stop smoking, your HDL levels can increase by about 30 percent within three weeks. Your body is amazing how it can heal itself.
Research shows that moderate alcohol consumption can raise your good HDL levels by increasing the speeds at which proteins are transported through the body. Drinking excessive amounts however, has an opposite effect, because it can raise your cholesterol. Red wine is best alcohol thanks to a natural plant sterol it contains called “resveratrol”. But remember, moderation.
Your body produces more energy in the form of metabolic fuels when it’s stressed, which in turn cause the liver to produce and secrete more LDL. The amount of stress in your life isn’t as important as how you deal with it. The more stressed you are, the higher your LDL levels tend to be.
Statins should be a last resort, when all of the above has failed, and you should give everything else a serious try first. Statins are controversial. There are many potential side effects, including muscle damage, nausea, confusion, memory loss, kidney damage, and headaches. Not everyone who takes statins will have side effects, but some people may be at a greater risk than others. Risk factors include being female, having a smaller body frame, being 65 or older, having kidney or liver disease, and drinking too much alcohol.
I’m really encouraged by my 6.7 result, however, 5 is the magic number, so over the coming months, I’m going to look at all of the above, and see how else I can help myself. That way I can high five Steph in more ways than one. Happy Birthday to my lovely pal.
*Helen Seymour is not a doctor. If you have any concerns about your cholesterol level, please visit your GP
Read more: The Menopause Diaries: You may find yourself a bottomless pit of RED rage
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