If the LDL cholesterol level in your blood is too high these cholesterol deposits tend to stick to the inner lining of your artery or blood vessels to form atheromatous plaques. With time other deposits add to this and these plaques become hard making the arteries harden. This disease is called arteriosclerosis or simply hardening of the arteries. When the artery is blocked totally either by a loosened atheroma plaque or by increasing deposits narrowing the artery we get a heart attack (if artery in heart is blocked) or a stroke (if artery in brain is blocked).

HDL, the "good cholesterol". High levels of HDL cholesterol can protect you against getting heart disease. Your HDL level should be over 1 but higher levels like over 1.7 means that you have "a negative risk factor" which means that you are protected against heart disease and even if other risk factors are present this negative risk factor will balance one risk factor out! HDL under one is not a good thing and you should do something urgently to change it. When I was working in the Intensive Care Units of hospitals in Finland and Ireland taking care of heart attack patients, I noticed that most of these patients had HDL levels below one. This does not mean that every person who has HDL levels below one is going to have a heart attack but it does mean that their risk is significantly higher. What do I have to do to increase my HDL levels and reduce my LDL levels?

  • Follow a low glycaemic diet
  • Eat more coldwater fish like herring, mackerel, salmon and tuna rich in omega fatty acids
  • Cook your food with olive oil, rapeseed or grapeseed oil
  • Moderate use of alcohol (around 2 units a day) has been found to decrease risk of heart disease, especially red wine rich in flavonoids can decrease oxidation of our bad LDL cholesterol. Alcohol also decreases the clotting properties of the blood decreasing your risk for clots (stroke, trombi).
  • If you don't drink alcohol there is no need to start for health reasons!
  • Use pans that need minimum oil and steam your vegetables to avoid vitamin loss
  • Reduce saturated fats in your diet
  • Reduce your weight if you are overweight or obese
  • Be more active
  • If you smoke, stop smoking

High Cholesterol and Children It is estimated that 8% of Irish children are obese. Obesity and high cholesterol goes hand in hand. There are very few statistics about cholesterol levels in children because this is seldom measured in children. It is estimated that Irish children have high cholesterol levels compared to the rest of international data available. A recent study found that the lifetime risk for developing coronary heart disease (CHD) is higher for people who have elevated cholesterol levels at any age. The treatment of high cholesterol levels in children is mainly a change of lifestyle, eating habits and weight reduction.