Having excessive levels of bad cholesterol in your body is not a good thing, and that’s no different whether you’re old or young.
In the elderly bad cholesterol can be more serious, as underlying health problems can exacerbate the situation and excessive bad cholesterol can make it harder to get other health issues under control.
So what is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fatty substance made by the liver and it is essential in normal body functioning. Blood carries cholesterol around the body in lipoproteins. There are two types:
- Low density lipoprotein (LDL): LDL moves cholesterol around the body to cells that require it. The problem is that if too much cholesterol builds up in the arteries it can turn to plaque and lead to disease. For this reason, LDL is commonly known as bad cholesterol.
- High density lipoprotein (HDL): HDL is often known as good cholesterol because it carries cholesterol from cells back to the liver where they are either broken down or passed as waste.
Whilst cholesterol is absolutely essential and higher levels of HDL are a good thing, there is also plenty of evidence to show that high levels of LDL can increase the likelihood of artery disease. This is a problem at any age, but can be even more severe in the elderly.
What causes high cholesterol?
There are a number of causes of high cholesterol and a really good place to start is by identifying what those are. Apart from underlying medical conditions and family history, there are a number of other causal factors that you have a level of control over. These include:
- Stopping smoking. A chemical in cigarettes inhibits HDL carrying cholesterol to the liver from fatty deposits and causes arteries to narrow.
- Regulate your weight. The more overweight you are the more the shorter chained LDL’s are likely to deposit fat in the artery walls which turns into plaque.
- Alcohol consumption. As with obesity, if you drink too much your levels of LDL and can increase.
- Unhealthy diet. The key thing to remember here is that a diet is high in saturated fat can put you at greater risk of high bad cholesterol levels.
- Lack of exercise. If you’re not exercising, you are at risk
Lowering cholesterol with exercise
Exercise reduces LDL and if there is weight loss, HDL will increase.
Lowering bad cholesterol through diet
Increasing soluble fibre reduces bad cholesterol, bran is a very good source. (Oat bran or bran flakes.)
Cutting down foods high in saturated fat is the next step. Switch heavy oils and cream for olive oil. Adding Omega 3s, either in oily fish or in supplements, is going to help as they help lower triglyceride levels. Increasing the amount of fresh fruit and veg (especially leafy greens) is good. Recent advice boosts 5 a day recommendations to 10 a day.
High levels of bad cholesterol are not good at any stage in life, but in the elderly it is even more important to lower those levels. By addressing controllable causes of high cholesterol, increasing exercise levels, and making improvements to diet, elderly people especially can improve not only their current health and lifestyle but they will increase their chances of recovering from future issues.