Heart your heart – Watch your cholesterol

Mopani Pharmacy White River’s Responsible pharmacist, Susan de Jager, explains how you can “heart your heart”, by looking after your cholesterol levels.

Tell us about cholesterol?

“We all need cholesterol in our lives, but too much of a good thing is sometimes bad, especially for your heart”, Susan explained.

Cholesterol is important because it:

  • Builds the structure of cell membranes
  • Makes hormones like oestrogen, testosterone, cortisol and adrenaline
  • Helps your metabolism work efficiently; cholesterol is essential for your body to produce vitamin D
  • Produces bile acids, which help the body digest fat and absorb important nutrients

“You can’t live without cholesterol. We’re born with it in our bodies, and babies get more from their mother’s milk. In fact, cholesterol is even added to baby formula!” she continued.

“Supplements may work to lower cholesterol, but slowly. The main drawback of supplements is that they must be taken daily, and they don’t work overnight, but cholesterol-lowering medications such as statins work faster.”

What is high cholesterol?

“You may be diagnosed with high blood cholesterol if you consistently have high levels of bad cholesterol (LDL or lipids) in your blood lipogram result. This test can be performed at your nearest doctor or the Mopani Pharmacy Wellness Clinic. One out of every three adults have high cholesterol”, she explained.

“Untreated, high LDL can lead to the build-up of plaque in the blood vessels, called atherosclerosis. Plaque build-up increases your risk for heart attack, stroke, and peripheral artery disease. The most common cause of LDL is an unhealthy lifestyle”, Susan continued.

What increases my risk of having high cholesterol?

When is high cholesterol a good thing?

“High-density lipoproteins (HDL) are considered “good” cholesterol. Having high levels of HDL may provide some protection from heart disease.”

How do we prevent high cholesterol?

  • Adopt heart-healthy lifestyle changes

“If you are unable to lower or control your high levels with lifestyle changes alone, your doctor may prescribe medicine. If your doctor prescribes medicines as part of your treatment plan, be sure to continue your healthy lifestyle changes. The combination of the medicines and the heart-healthy lifestyle changes will help to lower and control your LDL.”

  • Eat healthy and aim for a healthy weight

“Try a diet that contains a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, and lean proteins such as soy, poultry, and fish. Your diet should be low in salt, sugar, saturated fats, trans fats, and processed red meat.”

  • Be physically active

Get 30 minutes of physical activity five times a week. It should be the kind that raises your heart rate during the exercise. This can improve your HDL cholesterol and lower your LDL and triglycerides. You can walk, run, swim or bike.

  • Quit smoking

Smoking decreases the good cholesterol. Lower HDL in smokers leaves the blood vessels more open to damage. This can make it more likely for smokers to develop heart disease. Quitting now can boost your HDL, lower your LDL and triglycerides, as well as provide a host of other health-friendly benefits.

What supplements can I take to help lower my bad cholesterol?

“It appears that Niacin (Vitamin B3) lowers LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and raises HDL cholesterol. The most common side effect of high-dose niacin is skin flushing or hot flashes, which is caused by the widening of blood vessels. Most people only notice this when they initially start taking niacin. The flushing may be lessened by taking niacin with meals.”

“Soluble fibre appears to reduce LDL levels by reducing LDL absorption in the intestines. It binds with cholesterol so that it is excreted. Soluble fibre can be found as a dietary supplement, such as psyllium powder, or in foods such as oats, barley, rye, legumes (peas, beans), apples, prunes, berries, carrots, brussels sprouts and broccoli.”

“Omega-3 fatty acids, or fish oils are known to be heart-healthy.”

How do I keep track of my LDL?

“Knowledge is power, know your score. As previously mentioned, you can have a test performed at any Mopani Pharmacy to determine your levels.”

This is what your cholesterol levels should look like:

Are there any side effects to taking statins?

“Statins deplete coenzyme Q10, muscle cells and nerves are especially sensitive to a deficiency of coenzyme Q10. You should always take a coenzyme Q10 supplement with your LDL medication.”

You can supplement with: Holistix Coenzyme Q10 50Mg Caps or Solal Co-Enzyme Q10 Caps

To remember

You only have one heart, and you should not be the one to break it. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist at Mopani to recommend a supplement and advise on how to take them. Supplements may contra-indicate other supplements and medications. You can visit any of our Wellness Clinics, without an appointment.

We can deliver your medication, supplements, cosmetics, fragrances and other Mopani online shopping, nationwide. Contact us for info: mopani.co.za | crossing@mopani.co.za | Tel: 0137555500 | WhatsApp: 0661921703

Read more: 20 Cool facts about the heart

Blood pressureCholesterolDiabetesElbi dippenaarHeart healthSusan de jagerWhite river mopani