New appointment with the column of, in collaboration with doctors of Humanitas to debunk some myths about cholesterol. This month Dr. Lidia Rota, Director of the Cardiovascular Prevention Center, will respond to reader’s questions.


Cholesterol is considered completely “bad”?

Cholesterol is a steroid lipid that in excessive amounts clogs the arteries. Due to this it must be kept under control. Not all cholesterol however, is considered bad, because it is an essential component of cell membranes and is required to produce important hormones (such as sex hormones) and cortisol (which helps the body to resist stress). It is the “precursor” of the vitamin D, which promotes the absorption of calcium, which is important for healthy bones and teeth. Since cholesterol is also derived from bile acids, substances that are involved in the digestive process. Finally, it is present in the white matter of the brain and the membranes that surround the nerves and therefore plays an essential role in the transmission of nerve impulses.


What are considered normal cholesterol values?

Cholesterol is considered harmful only when it’s in excess. In blood tests, its overall value should always stand at below 200 milligrams per deciliter. We must then distinguish between bad cholesterol (LdL) and good cholesterol (HdL). Both molecules are delegated to the transport of cholesterol in the bloodstream, but while the first transfers it to the tissues, the latter are responsible for the removal of excess lipids in our plasma. The value of LdL must be less than 95 mg / dl, while the “good” (HDL) must be high (greater than 40, preferably higher than 60).


How often should you perform a blood test?

Your first blood test should be done around the age of 20 years and then every five. Smokers, diabetics and people suffering from other diseases should instead undergo checks annually. The rate should be in any case agreed from time to time with the doctor.


What precautions to take to reduce the amount of bad cholesterol?

  • To limit the consumption of foods that contain saturated fats (found mostly in animal products), and avoid foods that contain hydrogenated fats, found in snacks, and in fast foods. These are in fact the main culprits in raising levels of bad cholesterol.
  • Promoted substances of vegetable origin, in particular fruits, vegetables and legumes; for condiments, to privilege extra virgin olive oil and corn oil.
  • Foods containing fibers which are excellent because they slow down the absorption of certain nutrients, such as fats, helping to control the levels of cholesterol in the blood.
  • Lean meat (turkey, chicken, lean cuts of beef) are preferred, however make sure to not exceed over 500 grams of meat consumption a week.
  • Fish should be consumed 3 to 4 times a week. They contain the polyunsaturated Omega-3 which improves blood fluidity.
  • Choose cheeses and dairy products low in fat, like cottage cheese, and choose low-fat milk in the whole.
  • Limit your consumption of fried foods and avoid cooking food with recycled cooking oil.