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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Can I prevent high cholesterol through diet if I have a family history?

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  • 2


    Emily is an Accredited Practising Dietitian/ Sports Dietitian working in private practise on the Gold Coast. Emily has a particular interest in sports nutrition. Her … View Profile

    Absolutely. Reduce the dietary components known to increase your bad LDL cholesterol (like saturated fats from meat, dairy palm and coconut oils), and replace with foods that can positively affect your good HDL cholesterol, reduce your LDL cholesterol, or make little difference to either (such as fish and omega fats, unsaturated fats such as nuts, olives and avocadoes, fibre from fruit, veggies and wholegrain breads and cereals, and plant sterols, low fat dairy foods and eggs). If you have already got high cholesterol, dietary treatment is an option as well.

  • 3


    Arlene is a registered practising dietitian, with a private practice in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, and has built a strong business over the last … View Profile

    Having high cholesterol levels increases your risk of developing atherosclerosis and having a heart attack or a stroke. Many cases of high cholesterol are influenced by lifestyle factors such as your weight and diet. Your genes, however, also play a role in your blood cholesterol levels, and genetic conditions such as familial hypercholesterolemia can cause your cholesterol levels to be high. High blood cholesterol levels do not cause any symptoms until they result in atherosclerosis, a condition which makes arteries narrow and hard. Nonetheless, if you have multiple relatives who have high cholesterol levels or who have suffered a heart attack or stroke, you may have genetically high cholesterol levels. Another sign that your high cholesterol levels are caused by your genes is if your cholesterol is high early in life, particularly if you have a normal body weight. Your genes control the way that your organs function. Genetic causes of high cholesterol can result from mutations which occur in the LDL receptor, a protein which helps transport cholesterol out of the blood into organs, where it can be used to make bile, hormones and cell membranes. This kind of mutation causes your LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels to be chronically high.
    High blood levels of lipids caused by genetic problems are called familial hyperlipidemias.
    Although the familial hyperlipidemias are caused by genetic defects, they are still treatable. Normally diet and exercise is not sufficient. Most patients will need to take medications, such as statins, fibrates and niacin, to improve their cholesterol levels and reduce their risk of developing cardiovascular disease. However it is recommended to follow a healthy lifestyle, which includes maintaining a healthy weight and eating a diet low in saturated fat, trans fats  and cholesterol. Regular exercise is also recommended
    Choose Healthy Fats – eat more omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids - because our body does not manufacture them itself. This is found in some vegetable oils like flaxseed oil and fish oils from oily fish like mackerel, salmon, herring, sardines and tuna. Omega-3 actually helps to improve blood fats like cholesterol. Switch to non-saturated fats and oils to lower your cholesterol (eg. monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fat from foods like fish, nuts, and vegetable oils).  Saturated fat is found mainly in animal foods like meat and cheese, so go easy on meat/cheese and introduce more vegetarian meals into your weekly diet plan. In addition, beware foods that contain “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” or “trans-fats”. For example, limit your consumption of shortenings, hard margarine, cakes, biscuits, crackers, snack foods, fried foods, donuts, pastries, baked goods, and other processed foods Hydrogenated or trans fats function like saturated fat. A high intake of saturated fat, hydrogenated or trans fat increases cholesterol and other lipid levels, and may cause atherosclerosis. Eat Plenty Of Fruits And Vegetables. Fruit and veg is packed with valuable nutrients and contains a number of plant chemicals which are supposed to offer some protection again heart disease and cancer. Choose High Fibre, Low-GI Carbohydrates.
    Although eating a heart-friendly diet is an important step towards healthy cholesterol levels, anyone suffering from hypercholesterolemia, familial hypercholesterolemia or hypertriglyceridemia must consider the cholesterol-lowering benefits of physical exercise and take steps to follow a program of medically approved exercise. Maintain a healthy weight.
    Quit smoking. Cigarettes and other forms of tobacco help to increase LDL levels (bad cholesterol), and depress HDL levels (good cholesterol). In fact, smoking massively increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

  • Sharon Brooks


    Sharon, a Registered Nutritionist RNutr and Food Scientist runs a nutrition consulting business that specialises in proactive nutrition and disease prevention.Sharon runs corporate, school and … View Profile

    Hi There, It is also possible to improve your cholesterol status through food choices. The above listed suggestions are all excellent. One more addition is to consume foods/drinks that are fotified with plant sterols. Plant sterols are a component naturally found in plant foods that we do not absorb. Plant sterols attach to cholesterol units which are then excreted out of the body. It is possible to see an appreciable change with regular consumption, such as 2-3 serves per day over a 3 week period. The only disclaimer on this is that in order for the cholesterol reduction to be maintained plant sterols must be consumed regularly. Plant sterols are contained in fruits and vegetables, some oils and grains. However, the amount required to be effective for cholesterol is higher.  

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