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Sport and Fitness on the Costa Blanca - cholesterol control

Sally Abel is a UK qualified sport therapist with a BSc (Hons) in Sport & Exercise Science and a member of IIHHT. She has been working in the health and fitness industry for over 5 years. Previous to moving to Spain, she worked for the National Public Health Service on Heart Disease prevention projects.

If you are looking for a personal trainer, or have any questions, you can contact Sally on 00 34 647 275 051.

Fitness on the Costa BlancaSee Also:-
Blood Pressure
Rheumatoid Arthritis
Weight Training - part 1
Weight Training - part 2


Everybody seems to be talking about cholesterol these days. It may be a topic that you know little about, you may actually have a high cholesterol level, and not even know what it means. Hopefully this month’s article should help you understand the subject a bit more, and help you in reducing your risks of developing any problems related.

Firstly let us knock one myth on the head! It is a common belief that we get high cholesterol from the eating foods that have a high level of the substance. This is not exactly right, as very few foods contain what is known as "dietary cholesterol". Cholesterol is actually produced in the body from the foods we eat, that are high in saturated fat.

So what is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy like substance that is found in the bloodstream. It is a chemical produced in liver from the fat that we eat. The more fat that is eaten the more cholesterol is produced by the liver.

Why is it so bad?

Problems begin when there is too much cholesterol in the blood stream. It adds to the risk of a build up on the walls of the body’s arteries, of a fatty substance known as atheroma. If the build is allowed to continue, over a period of time, it can actually completely block the artery, so no blood can pass through. Or parts can break off, known as clots, and again these can result in further damage. The end result being Heart Disease, and related conditions such as Angina, Stroke or a Heart attack.

So is all cholesterol bad for you?

No! As the liver actually produces cholesterol itself, we obviously do need a certain amount for the body to function normally. Cholesterol forms part of all cell walls within the body, protects nerve fibres and is used in some hormone production.

So are there different types?

Yes. When you have a cholesterol test taken, your GP will look at 4 different numbers. These will be measurements of TOTAL CHOLESTEROL, LDL, HDL AND TRIGLYCERIDES. We will concern ourselves only with the first 3 measurements:

Total Cholesterol is self explanatory.

LDL (Low Density Lipids) are more commonly known as bad cholesterol. Although it does have a good job in transporting cholesterol away form the liver to where it is needed, if there is too much, a build up is the result, as discussed earlier. You do not want a high level of these in your blood test.

HDL (High Density Lipids), are the good guys. They almost act like a vacuum cleaner and help to clean up the fat in the blood stream and assist the body in getting rid of it. If you have a high level of these, this s a good indication that your cholesterol is fine.

How much of each should I have?

Current Joint British Guidelines recommend the following levels




Fitness on the Costa BlancaWhat can I do if my total and LDL levels are high, or prevent them from getting high?

Depending on how high the levels are, your GP will usually advise a trial period of making lifestyle changes, which will include changes to your diet, increasing your activity levels and possibly weight loss. If they are initially very high, or there is no change after the trial period, your GP will normally prescribe cholesterol lowering medication known as STATINS.

What kind of diet changes?

Just to make your eating regime healthier. You don’t have to cut out everything you like that isn't very good for you, just eat it less often, and in smaller amounts.

LOW SATURATED FAT INTAKE: Which will mean reducing the amount of, fried foods, red meats, cheese, full fat products, butter, crisps and takeaways in your diet.

INCREASING GOOD FAT INTAKE: Increasing the amount of nuts, olive, almond and sunflower oil in the diet. Eating more fish, preferably 3 times a week, and 2 of those to be an oily fish such as sardines, mackerel, salmon or fresh tuna.

EATING 5 PORTIONS OF FRUIT OR VEG EACH DAY: It honestly is not that difficult! Fruit juices, fresh soups and salads do all count towards it. And keep it varied!!

CARBOHYDRATES: use these as the main bulk of your meal, they include, potatoes, pasta, rice, pulses and beans.

What about exercise?

As with any exercise programme, be sure to consult your GP before commencing any kind of exercise, or increasing your activity levels.

Regular physical activity reduces the overall risk of developing Heart Disease and therefore will reduce the risk factors that contribute to it, namely cholesterol levels. Regular aerobic exercise for 30 minutes on 5 or more days of the week, which are the current recommended guidelines, has been proven to reduce Total and LDL cholesterol, and increase HDL levels. Even the smallest of changes really lower the risk of Heart Disease. Exactly what we want!

Aerobic activities are those that increase heart rate and blood flow, which in turn burn fat to produce the energy to participate in the activity. This type of activity would include, walking swimming, cycling, aerobics, circuits, gym work.

Although for some people, gardening, taking the stairs not the lift, walking to the shops instead of talking the car, getting off the bus that one stop earlier can make all the difference, and are a good starting place for increasing physical activity levels.

I hope that this month’s article has provided you with clearer picture of what cholesterol is and how you can help prevent developing the problems associated with it. If you would like more in depth explanations, or would like to get in contact with organisations that can help, please look at the list of web addresses below. (this is a great leaflet that you can print out).

Next month, exercise and arthritis is the topic! So if you have any questions about this or the two subjects already covered, or anything you would like me to write about, Please mail the web site! See you next month!

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