The Health and Wellbeing column with Mel Spencer: Busting the myths around cholesterol

This month is National Cholesterol Month, a topic that is generally misunderstood – so cholesterol myth busting it is!

Wednesday, 13th October 2021, 5:28 pm
Updated Thursday, 14th October 2021, 10:12 am
Risks of high LDL levels include consuming a high level of saturated fat.

This month is National Cholesterol Month, a topic that is generally misunderstood – so cholesterol myth busting it is!

The most common misconception relating to cholesterol is that it is bad for you, when in actual fact we very much need it and without it we couldn’t survive. Cholesterol is a waxy substance that circulates in your blood and is used to build cells and make vitamins C and D and other hormones.

There is cholesterol in every cell of your body and it is vital for nerve functioning, your brain and your skin. 80% is produced in the liver, while the rest comes from our food.

Personal trainer Mel Spencer.

There are two types:

HDL (high-density lipoprotein) is the good stuff. It removes fats and other unhealthy cholesterol from our circulatory system by taking it to the liver where it is broken down and passed from the body.

In doing so HDL can actually protect against heart disease.

LDL (low-density lipoprotein) is the type we want less of as it collects in the walls of our arteries.

Too much LDL, or not enough HDL, increases the risk of cholesterol slowly building up in the inner walls of the arteries that feed the heart and brain increasing the risk of heart disease.

High cholesterol levels don’t have symptoms and a blood test is the only way of detection.

To reduce the risk of high LDL levels and low HDL levels we need to look at the biggest contributing factors – namely lifestyle factors. These include consuming a high level of saturated fat in your diet, low levels of exercise and being overweight.

To help to combat the negative effects of the above lifestyle factors we can reduce the amount of saturated fats we consume opting for good fats found in oily fish, olive oil, avocados and nuts as an example.

Exercise will also help to reduce risk. Keep it varied to prevent boredom, a combination of resistance training and cardiovascular work is a good mix. In some cases medication may also be prescribed.

Other risk factors include smoking, diabetes and high blood pressure. The more risk factors, the higher the overall risk is.

The good news is that lifestyle changes, even small ones, can have a dramatic impact on the levels of cholesterol found in the blood and that all cholesterol isn’t bad.

For more information on how nutrition and exercise can reduce the risks contact Mel at

○ Heart UK, The Cholesterol Charity, has organised a special challenge this October to bring in funding.

The charity’s vision is to prevent early disease and deaths from cholesterol and other blood fat (lipid) conditions in the UK.

A spokesman said: “Our aim is for people to know and understand their cholesterol and other blood fat (lipid) levels and take appropriate action.

“We are encouraging people to take on our ‘Great Cholesterol Challenge’.

“Being active is a major part of looking after your cholesterol levels, keeping your heart healthy and helping to prevent heart disease.

“Walk, cycle, run or swim 100 miles in October and get sponsored to help raise vital funds for Heart UK.”

Go to to find out more about the challenge.