Send to

How to lower cholesterol ― Five facts and misunderstandings

Feb. 9, 2012 - 19:38 By Korea Herald
While performing medical check-ups, I commonly notice an overflow of people who have higher cholesterol than normal.

A study was conducted on 50,000 people who took regular medical check-ups at Samsung Seoul Hospital in 2010. It showed that approximately 40 percent of them had higher cholesterol than normal. This means that the level of serum cholesterol is higher than normal in about half of people who have consulted me.

But it takes a very short time to find an answer to my question of how Korean people reached such a desperate situation.

On examination, I commonly notice that at most one of 10 people have a smooth, flexible body. Aren’t there any secrets to lower cholesterol?

1. What is the difference between “good” cholesterol and “bad?”

Many people still ask me this question. The answer is very easy. “Bad” cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) is the more important of the two. It is the primary indicator by which we can determine whether serum cholesterol is higher than normal or how much we can improve our health by taking drugs.

My level of “bad” cholesterol is approximately 90 and this value suggests a very good profile of serum cholesterol. Let’s see immediately check our level of “bad” cholesterol based on the results of a check-up we have previously taken. If your level of “bad” cholesterol exceeds 130, you should lower it. If it exceeds 190, you should go on medication immediately.

2. Misunderstandings about the color yellow

Many people associate cholesterol with the color yellow. This might be because the yellow color represents cholesterol. It is true that the yellow of an egg is high in cholesterol, approximately 200 milligrams.

But you don’t have to reject the yellow of eggs completely. We are allowed to eat up to one egg a day as part of a healthy diet if we have a normal level of cholesterol.

But if you have a higher level of cholesterol than normal or suffer from cardiovascular diseases, it is recommended you take no more than two eggs a week.

3. Cookies and meat

We are all aware that too much meat can be harmful. When I ask people with a higher level of cholesterol if they eat a lot of meat, I notice nearly 90 percent look aggrieved.

“Can you explain to me why my cholesterol level is higher than normal although I seldom have meat?” For your reference, I have summarized foods that we commonly take without knowing about their abundance of fatty ingredients. There is a considerable amount of saturated fat in foods which women have a preference for (cakes or pastries) and those which men have a preference for (cookies and coffee mix).

The saturated fat is also called as “an invisible fat” because we cannot see it with our naked eyes. If we have a higher level of cholesterol, let’s try our best to lower the level of saturated fat in particular.

4. Should I lose weight?

Even decreasing body weight by 2-5 kg will lower cholesterol. Obesity is a key factor in the occurrence of many adult diseases such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus and hypercholesterolemia.

My recommendation is to reduce your body weight by 3 kg over three months. By losing weight slowly, we don’t burden our body. With appropriate dieting and exercise, most of us can successfully lose weight.

5. Can I improve my cholesterol level even without exercise?

Only diet can lower cholesterol. But the combination of a healthy diet and exercise could not be better for your health. From my point of view, based on my specialty in health promotion, health cannot be actually improved without exercise. The greatest reason is that exercise has a big impact on both the body and mind. One of my senior professors runs an obesity clinic and wrote for a daily paper, saying: “There is no weight loss without an exercise.” I dare say that there will be no dream of health improvement without exercise! 


Food rich in saturated fat

The best method for lowering cholesterol is to reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet. The following table lists the foods to which Koreans should pay special attention.

Sweet, processed foods are popular, but they contain more saturated fat. This deserves special attention. For example, a pack of cookies has the same amount of saturated fat as 100 grams of galbi (ribs).

Kwon Young-hoon

By Dr. Kwon Young-hoon

The author is a professor at the Center for Health Promotion of Samsung Seoul Hospital. ― Ed.