Fat Men’s Health: What The **** Is Cholesterol And Why Should I Care?
Hooray! It’s National Cholesterol Month, which just so happens to be our joint-favourite health-themed month, tied only for top place with joint health month.
National Cholesterol Month is organised by our chums over at Heart UK and aims to raise awareness of cholesterol and its impact on your health. Frankly, we think this is a very good thing, for the simple reason that cholesterol is one of those terms like “inflation” that you read about in the news all the time and get a vague feeling that it’s not a positive thing but whenever you try and learn about it in more detail it sounds like when the teacher in Snoopy starts talking.
So, let’s nail this together once and for all: what the **** is cholesterol and why should we care?
Cholesterol is a type of blood fat which is made in the liver. It’s also present in some foods too.
The first confusing thing about cholesterol is that we need some of it in our bodies or we can get negative health impacts. Cholesterol actually helps with a range of things your body does from digesting food, making Vitamin D, supporting brain function and keeping bones strong.
So our first lesson is not all cholesterol is bad.
Cholesterol comes in two distinct flavours. There’s LDL and HDL, just remember that the H in HDL cholesterol stands for Hooray! (it obviously doesn’t, but you get the point) and you’ll always know which one is the bad one.
Now, this being cholesterol, it’s obviously not as simple as LDL being the bad guy. Much like you can make a good case that Vader in Star Wars wasn’t purely evil; as with LDL cholesterol, your body does need some for correct functioning. It’s just when there’s too much and it piles up in your arteries that it’s bad news – much like Vader.
So what causes high HDL cholesterol?
There are four main culprits so let’s bullet point those suckers:
- Eating lots of saturated fats
- Low activity levels
- Medical conditions
It’s really only the first two that you have any degree of control over, so let’s look at those in more detail.
Simplifying things a bit we can say that saturated fats are those that are animal-based. Meats, butter, dairy products and foods that are made from them – such as cakes and biscuits. It’s not just animal-based fats though, coconut oil and palm oil can also increase the bad type of cholesterol (LDL remember). When we over-consume these fats it causes the liver to become less efficient at breaking down the LDL cholesterol and that leads to the dreaded build ups.
Your activity levels are important because the more exercise you do, the more fats aren’t burned up for energy. Once again, this leads to a higher build up of LDL cholesterol.
Two other factors that can make the situation worse are, no suprise, smoking and drinking too much alcohol.
Why should you care?
Perhaps the most obvious reason to get your cholesterol levels checked is that if you find out about high cholesterol then you can do something about it.
For lots of men it can be the kick up the arse that they need to start looking after themselves better. Also, it’s important to note that high cholesterol has no symptoms – there’s no blood in your poo, or double vision – it’s not a problem until it is a big problem and that can be too late.
The range of health conditions that high cholesterol causes include strokes and heart attacks, the sort of thing that can kill you or massively change your life. If you’re worried about your weight – and let’s be frank, you’re on a site called MAN v FAT – then a quick trip to the GP for a test would be a very good move.
These are the sort of results you’ll get:
|Age||Total cholesterol||Non-HDL cholesterol||LDL cholesterol|
|19 and younger||Borderline high: 170-199
High: 200 or higher
|Borderline high: 120-144
High: 145 or higher
|Borderline high: 110-129
High: 130 or higher
|20 and older||Borderline high: 200-239
High: 240 or higher
|High: 130 or higher||Near optimal: 100-129
Borderline high: 130-159
Very high: 190 or higher
The test itself takes five minutes and involves a finger-prick, putting a drop of your blood on a piece of paper and then getting your results. It’s not painful in the slightest and it can give you a really important set of data to fuel your desire for change and to protect your health.
Don’t mess around, go get one. Now.