What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is made by the liver and is needed in order to function properly. Cholesterol made in the liver hitches a ‘lift’ on proteins and are transported around the body by our transport network – blood. When a lipid and protein combine it is called a lipoprotein. These lipoproteins are characterised into two categories, with each one having a different role to play in the transportation or cholesterol.
High-density lipoproteins – or good cholesterol. The reason HDL is known as good cholesterol is because it transports cholesterol back to the liver. Here it is either broken down or passed out of our body.
Low density lipoproteins – bad cholesterol. The reason LDL is bad is because it transports cholesterol to the cells, when the cells are full, LDL continues to deliver cholesterol even though it is not needed, causing a build-up of cholesterol on the artery walls. Imagine squeezing a hose pipe as the water is going through, the water volume stays the same but the space it has to get through decreases. This is what happens to the blood, the space for the blood to get through decreases, but the volume stays the same.
It is not the cholesterol that is bad, it is what the build up of cholesterol causes which is harmful. Below is a list of things which can increase our LDL and the associated increased risks of higher levels of LDL:
|Family history of strokes, hear attacks||Heart attach|
|Unhealthy diet (saturated fat)||Peripheral Arterial Disease|
|High blood pressure||Mini Stroke (Transient Ischaemic Attack)|
|Diabetes||Narrowing of the arteries|
NICE* guidelines recommend we should keep our total cholesterol below 5 mmol/l and LDL less than 3 mmol/l. The Joint British Societies recommended total cholesterol below 4 mmol/l and LDL less than 2 mmol/l for people with coronary heart disease.
*National Institute of Health Care
Treatment and Intervention
Depending on the severity of the cholesterol level, drugs may be used as an intervention, along with and/or dietary modifications and exercise.
Exercise prescription is recommended not only for its ability to reduce a person’s cholesterol but for its secondary benefits on the associated risks of high cholesterol – decreased blood pressure, lower heart rate and increased myocardial blood flow.
The benefits of exercise are that it increases the good cholesterol, lower levels of LDL and improved glycaemic control.
When carrying our aerobic training the intensity should of a moderate intensity, this is between 40-80% of your maximum heart rate 3 x a week, alternatively you can do 10-30 minutes, 2-3 x a day. To see noticeable changes to your lipids you should continue this behaviour for 9-12 months, in this time your fitness and health will improve.
Resistance training performed as a circuit, increasing the heart rate and calorie expenditure is recommended over single exercises. Each exercise should be carried out for 2-4 sets, between 8-12 reps at 60-80% 1RM.
Start your session with a gentle warm up of mobility drills, some like those mentioned by Achieve Fitness are good as they target the whole body.
Once you have carried out your mobility warm up, give this bodyweight circuit a go:
After your resistance circuit carry out some cardio exercise – upright bike, cross trainer or treadmill for 10-20 minutes at a moderate intensity. Followed by some stretches before you leave.
If you are on medication you should chat with your doctor before starting an exercises plan as some medications need to have special considerations when exercising as they can:
- require a longer cool down period
- cause your legs to ache
- dehydration effects
- may cause your heart rate to slow down giving you a false reading on the cardiovascular machines
What ever your ability, start slowly and build up the intensity. Stick with the sessions and exercise, adherence is key to helping you lower your cholesterol levels back down, happy training.