Hypercholesterolaemia (hyper = increased, -aemia = blood).

Hypercholesterolaemia thus means increased blood cholesterol levels. It is extremely dangerous and something that needs to be addressed in order to prevent other serious complications.

The medication prescribed for hypercholesterolaemia (predominantly statins) often results in very unpleasant and nasty side effects such as headaches, difficulty sleeping, flushing of the skin, muscle aches or tenderness, drowsiness and dizziness to name a few.

In this article we are going to explore the treatment of hypercholesterolaemia without the nasty side effects.

*Please consult your medical doctor before discontinuing any prescription medication.

 What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fat compound, synthesized only in human and animal tissues. To ensure that the body always has the right amount of cholesterol required for sustaining life, the body produces cholesterol in the liver. A high dietary-intake of saturated and trans fats can lead to increased cholesterol, which causes atherosclerosis, the underlying disease process in coronary arteries that leads to heart attacks, strokes and embolisms.

 Where does cholesterol come from?
Cholesterol originates from two sources:

  1. When manufactured in the body by the liver.
  2. Intake through diet (high-fat diets)

High blood cholesterol levels occur when:
Familial hypercholesterolaemia: Excessive amounts of cholesterol are manufactured in the body. Individuals that have familial hypercholesterolaemia have inherited the genetic disorder that is characterised by the inability to remove low-density lipoprotein cholesterol from the blood.

  • Eating habits: Too much dietary fat (especially saturated fat) is ingested or unhealthy preparation methods (frying, deep-frying, and cooking with a lot of butter and cream) are used.
  • The liver eliminates too little cholesterol.

Risks of high cholesterol levels:
Now you might ask why is it necessary to prevent an increase in cholesterol levels or address it if it is already elevated.

It is important to remember that not all of these risk factors will present in every individual with increased cholesterol, but all of them are possibilities if high cholesterol levels remain untreated. The genetic predisposition of individuals will determine which risks are more likely to be diagnosed.

  • Coronary heart disease
  • Myocardial infarction (Heart attack)
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Reduced oxygen provision to the body
  • Portal hypertension
  • Stroke
  • Peripheral artery disease
  • Numbness, pain, gangrene
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Gallstones

Now that we have established what cholesterol is, where it comes from, when it is increased and what the risk factors are, let us focus on what we can do about it.

Nutrition tips:
Eating to lower cholesterol levels.

  • Reduce your total fat intake.
  • Reduce your intake of saturated fat (mainly animal fats).
  • Use cocoa butter and coconut oil sparingly – even though it is plant-based, it is high in saturated fats.
  • Replace saturated fat with polyunsaturated fats (nuts, seeds, fish, seed oils, and oysters).
  • Increase your intake of monounsaturated fats (olive oil, avocados and nuts).
  • Increase your intake of high-fibre food (especially soluble fibre).
  • Soluble fibre sources include oat bran, barley, beans, lentils, peas, fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat less salt.
  • Increase your fresh fruit and vegetable intake.
  • Distribute the intake of fat evenly throughout the day.
  • Do not skip meals.
  • Achieve your ideal body weight.

Remember that prevention is better than cure, therefore aim to keep your cholesterol within the suggested range rather than having to decrease it when it is too high. If you have a family history of cholesterol, please remember to go for your annual complete cholesterol screening.

Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.

Retha Booyens (RD SA)
Registered Dietician

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