Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a type of fat found in your blood. Your liver makes cholesterol for your body. You also can get cholesterol from the foods you eat. Meat, fish, eggs, butter, cheese, and milk all have cholesterol in them. Fruits, vegetables, and grains (like oatmeal) don't have any cholesterol.

Cholesterol is an organic molecule. It is a sterol, a type of lipid. Cholesterol is biosynthesized by all animal cells and is an essential structural component of animal cell membranes. It is a yellowish crystalline solid

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Dr. Milan Gupta, MD, FRCPC, Cardiologist, discusses How to Control LDL or ‘Bad’ Cholesterol in Your Life

Quiz: Do You Understand Cholesterol?

Test your knowledge by answering the following questions:

Questions
True
False
1

Eating more insoluble fiber can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream.

Explanation:
Eating more soluble fiber (found in foods such as Brussels sprouts, oatmeal, apples and kidney beans) can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream.
2

There may be a link between cholesterol and depression.

Explanation:
Research dating back to the 90s shows that low levels of HDL cholesterol (sometimes called "good cholesterol") is significantly lower in many patients with major depressive disorder than in non-depressed patients.
3

Being overweight or obese can increase the amount of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) in your blood.

Explanation:
Being overweight or obese can increase LDL, which is the kind of lipoprotein that's been linked to heart disease. LDL is often referred to as the "bad cholesterol", because a high LDL level leads to a buildup of cholesterol in your arteries.
4

Your body doesn't need any cholesterol to function properly.

Explanation:
Your body does need some types of cholesterol to stay healthy. For example, cholesterol is essential in building cells and making hormones. However, while HDL cholesterol can lower your risk for heart disease and stroke, LDL cholesterol raises it.
5

Saturated fat is a bad fat, because it raises your LDL levels.

Explanation:
Saturated fat actually raises your LDL levels more than anything else in your diet. It is found in red meat, dairy products, deep-fried foods and processed foods.
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Diana Steele, BSc, RD, discusses how to reduce saturated fats.

Bill Semchuk, BSP, MSc, Pharmc D, MCSHP, Phamracist, discusses why adherence to cholesterol medications is so important.

Diana Steele, BSc, RD, discusses the dangers of high tryglerides.

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High Cholesterol and the Importance of Adherence to Medication

High cholesterol is a chronic condition, and it affects a lot of Canadians. We can’t fix your cholesterol, but we can lower it with medications. Because cholesterol stays up without intervention you need to take these medications for the rest of your life.

Current statistics would suggest that about half of Canadians stop taking their medications within a year to two of starting. The challenge with that is the longer you take your medications the greater the benefit. Local Nutritionist 

And those people who stop their medications early lose the benefit of that therapy. It’s really important when you are prescribed a new medication to talk to your doctor and ask how long do you expect me to take this? Local Registered Dietician 

It’s really important that you talk to your pharmacist and say how long do you expect me to take this? And put yourself in a position not to run out of your medications. Work with your pharmacist to ensure that refills are there. Work with your pharmacist to make it easy to take those medications if you face any challenges.

Taking medications over the long term will reduce heart attacks and strokes. If you want more information on cholesterol and the effect of medications and the importance of adherence, talk to your pharmacist – they can help.

Presenter: Mr. Bill Semchuk, Pharmacist, Regina, SK

Local Practitioners: Pharmacist

How to Control LDL or 'Bad' Cholesterol in Your Life

Cholesterol is a very vital part of our biology. We need cholesterol for certain things. We need cholesterol to stabilize cell membranes, to synthesize certain hormones.

There are good cholesterol and bad cholesterol levels, and we all know that bad cholesterol is bad because that’s the fundamental process that leads to heart disease.

While there are a number of risk factors for heart disease, we know that the most potent risk factor is in fact smoking. However, high cholesterol – because it’s so much more common in a population in general than smoking – is actually the most important risk factor for heart disease at a population level.

Now, that’s good and that’s bad. It’s bad because it’s so common, but it’s good because it is manageable; it is preventable. Through living a healthy lifestyle, eating a healthy diet, low-fat diet, avoiding smoking, exercising and avoiding obesity, we can keep our LDL cholesterol levels low right from childhood all the way into adulthood.

And genetic experiments that have looked at this have clearly supported the idea that if LDL cholesterol is kept low from childhood into adulthood, the risk of heart disease is dramatically reduced.

Sometimes healthy living alone is not enough to control LDL cholesterol, and we need to turn to drug therapy. The statin drugs are an absolute cornerstone in treating not only LDL cholesterol, but in reducing lifetime risk of heart attack, of stroke, and of death due to heart disease.

While statin drugs have been a boon in the fight against heart disease, there are some people who can’t tolerate them due to the side effects, and sometimes the statins just aren’t powerful enough to get the LDL cholesterol under control.

While we do have several other options, we are particularly excited about new drugs and development that we hope to have available to us within a short period of time that will likely further help us in this battle against heart disease.

If you are concerned about your cholesterol level or if you want to learn more, then you absolutely need to consult with your family physician who can assess not only your cholesterol levels, but your risk for developing heart disease and your need for any treatment.

Presenter: Dr. Milan Gupta, Cardiologist, Brampton, ON

Local Practitioners: Cardiologist

Brett Heilbron, MD, FRCPC, cardiologist, discusses lowering your cholesterol.

Local Registered Dietician

Victoria Middleton

Victoria Middleton

RD
Registered Dietitian
New York City, NY
Yumna Khan

Yumna Khan

RD
Registered Dietitian
Burlington, ON
Margarita deGraaf

Margarita deGraaf

RD
Registered Dietitian
Burlington, ON
Alexis Williams

Alexis Williams

RD
Registered Dietitian
Burlington, ON

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in North America. Heart disease refers to many conditions that affect the heart, including coronary artery disease, heart valve disease, heart attack, heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias) and more.

Lifestyle Habits & Heart Disease

While there are some heart disease risk factors you can’t control, there are some you can, including diet and lifestyle. Up to 80% of premature heart disease and stroke can be prevented through your lifestyle habits. Eating a well-balanced diet can lower your cholesterol and blood pressure and help you lose weight. A diet low in saturated fat and high in fibre and plant food can reduce your risk of developing heart disease by:

• Improving your cholesterol and blood pressure levels
• Controlling your blood sugar
• Helping you maintain a healthy body weight

If you have congestive heart failure, fluid retention is one of the biggest issues you face. You should aim to eat less than 2,000 milligrams of sodium daily – the average North American diet has about four to five thousand milligrams. Just as a diabetic would test their blood sugars every day to see how much insulin they need to take, a person with heart failure should be doing a daily weight check to monitor for fluid retention. Weigh yourself before breakfast and consult with your healthcare provider if you gain five pounds in a week or four pounds in two or three days.

Heart-Healthy Diet Tips

Here are some ways to ensure you’re eating a heart-healthy diet:

• Aim for 7-10 servings of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre.
• Avoid highly-processed foods such as fast food, deli meats and hot dogs. During processing vitamins, fibre and minerals are often removed while sugar or salt is added.
​​​​• Incorporate more whole grain foods into your diet, such as brown rice, quinoa and whole grain bread. They’re rich in fibre, B vitamins and protein.
• Look for foods that contain unsaturated fat rather than saturated fat. Lower your trans fatty acid intake by avoiding foods with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, shortening and margarine.
• Make sure you’re getting enough protein to maintain healthy bones and muscles. Look for beans, fish, tofu and lean meat.
• Stop drinking empty calories, which are found in fruit juices, energy drinks and soft drinks. They offer no nutritional value and can lead to weight gain. Choose water more often.

There are so many steps you can take towards a healthier heart, and diet is a big one. While it may seem daunting to change your eating habits, your heart will thank you!

Talk to your healthcare provider if you’d like more information on nutrition.

Visit HealthChoicesFirst.com for more videos and resources on heart health.

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