Do you have high cholesterol? Here’s what you need to know

Dr Ross Walker is a leading Sydney Cardiologist based in Lindfield who specialises in stress echocardiography and preventative cardiology. He has published 7 best-selling books on preventative cardiology and lectures both nationally and internationally on this subject.

As one Australian dies every 12 minutes from cardiovascular disease, typically coronary heart disease, stroke or heart failure, it’s important to know the best type of care for you, or a family member.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fatty substance produced by the liver and carried around the body in your bloodstream. Many of us consider cholesterol to be bad, or unhealthy, but there is a good side to it.

Your body needs cholesterol for many essential processes, including building healthy cell membranes, bile salt & vitamin D metabolism, and is the basic ring for steroid hormones.

Cholesterol may become a problem when there’s too much of the incorrect sub components, leading to health problems, such as coronary heart disease, stroke and heart failure.

Myth – The two types of cholesterol

Cholesterol is an essential part of our body, and in the correct levels, necessary for helping to digest food, produce hormones and generate vitamin D. Your body generates cholesterol itself, although we do ingest it from some foods. There is a common misconception that there are two types of cholesterol: low-density-lipoproteins (LDL), and high-density lipoproteins (HDL), also known as ‘bad’ and good’ cholesterol.

But, this is far too simplistic and inaccurate. Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL) are further subdivided into small and large components. It is the small components that are the main causes of atherosclerosis (the progressive build-up of fat, inflammatory cells and calcium within the walls of your arteries over many decades. Small LDL is pro-atherogenic (i.e. puts fat in the arterial wall), whilst small HDL is proinflammatory.

Large high-density lipoproteins (HDL) transport excess cholesterol from your cells back to your liver, to be used again, or removed from your system. As this cholesterol is removed from your system, it doesn’t contribute to any build up in your arteries. Large LDL builds healthy cell membranes, bile salt & vitamin D metabolism, and is the basic ring for steroid hormones.

How to treat high cholesterol 

If your cholesterol levels are high, your GP has probably prescribed you statin medication. Around 2.2 million Australians take statins to control cholesterol levels. Statins are used to lower LDL cholesterol, by blocking cholesterol production in your liver, which helps lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Statins also reduce the size of existing fatty plaques in the arterial wall. When there’s less cholesterol in your blood stream, due to the statins, your body will begin to reabsorb excess cholesterol, resulting in a reduction of levels in your arteries.

One of the side effects of statins is its reduction in your body’s level of the naturally-occurring Coenzyme Q10, which can lead to tiredness, muscles fatigue and soreness and more serious health issues. It is my opinion, with the mounting scientific evidence, that all people taking statin drugs should be taking Ubiquinol.

If your doctor hasn’t already recommended or prescribed it, include the supplement Ubiquinol, an active form of the naturally-occurring antioxidant CoQ10, as part of your daily health plan. Ubiquinol is more easily absorbed than CoQ10 and has been shown to help maintain a healthy heart and also reduce small LDL cholesterol levels.

Talk to your GP or health professionals for advice on Ubiquinol.

Article created in partnership with Over60