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Human health problems

An individuals' absolute risk of obesity related disease should be assessed by determining the degree of overweight/obesity based on:

  •  Body Mass Index (BMI) is one of the tools used by health professionals in determining if you are overweight or obese and at risk of the health complications that can arise from being overweight or obese. Being a female caucasian under 1.9m with a weight 86.8kg gives Raewyn a BMI of 3, which is considered high risk.

  •  The amount of weight carried on the abdomen is also a risk indicator. The desirable waist measurement for women is a waist measurement equal to or less than 88cm. A waist measurement of 95cm puts Raewyn in the obese category, increasing her risk of heart disease including heart attack and stroke, type 2 diabetes and joint problems.

  •  Being a smoker, with a family history of heart disease and having raised cholesterol places Raewyn at VERY high risk of developing heart disease.

Learning more about your health problem, can help you make changes to your lifestyle which can positively impact on your health.

Where does cholesterol come from?

Most of the cholesterol in our bodies is produced in the liver and the surrounding tissues, with a small amount coming from the food we eat. Cholesterol is primarily produced by animal tissue.

What foods are high in cholesterol?

Offal meats such as kidneys, liver and brains, egg yolks, butter and cream, cheeses, dripping and lard all have high levels of cholesterol. Meat, chicken, fish, whole milk and cheese are regarded as having moderate levels of cholesterol. Coconut and palm oil are also high in saturated fat. They are oils that are often used in commercially baked biscuits and cakes. Saturated fats can increase your "bad" cholesterol and decrease your "good" cholesterol.

Why worry about cholesterol?

Some cholesterol circulating in the blood is important for good health. However when there are high levels of cholesterol in the blood it is deposited in the walls of arteries, causing narrowing and hardening of the artery walls, increasing the risk of heart disease.

How do I find out if I have high cholesterol?

Your family doctor can arrange for a blood test to check the level of cholesterol in your blood, as well as other factors that affect your risk of heart disease.

Are there different types of cholesterol?

Lipoprotein molecules in the blood carry cholesterol of which there are two kinds:

  •  HDL or high density lipoprotein is called good cholesterol as it removes cholesterol from artery walls, which helps protect against heart disease.

  •  LDL or low density lipoprotein is known as bad cholesterol as it deposits cholesterol in cells, which promotes heart disease.

How do different fats affect cholesterol?

Eating less fat is a recognised way of lowering the level of cholesterol in the blood. There are 3 main types of fat found in the foods we eat:

  •  Saturated fats are found in animal products such as meat, butter, cream, cheese, dripping and lard. Coconut and palm oil - two vegetable oils that are also high in saturated fat. Saturated fats increase LDL cholesterol in our bodies and help to lower the level of HDL or good cholesterol in our bodies.

  •  Polyunsaturated fats occur in the oil found in seed and grains such as sunflower, safflower, corn, soybeans and nuts. Polyunsaturated fats help decrease LDL or bad cholesterol, but may also reduce the level of HDL or good cholesterol.

  •  Monounsaturated fats are found in both animal and plant products. Olive and canola oils are rich sources of monounsaturated fats. Other sources are avocados and peanuts. Monounsaturated fats help decrease LDL cholesterol and may help increase HDL cholesterol.

How does my diet affect cholesterol?

  •  Reducing the total amount of fat in your diet especially saturated fat and using small amounts of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats help lower cholesterol levels.

  •  Eat generous amounts of fruit, vegetables, whole grain bread, cereals and legumes such as dried beans, peas and lentils. The fibre found in legumes, oats, fruit and vegetables help to lower blood cholesterol levels.
  •  Fruit and vegetables contain high levels of vitamins, which also help protect against high blood cholesterol levels.

  •  Maintain a healthy body weight

  •  Limit salt, sugar and alcohol in your diet.

  •  Maintain an exercise routine, as it helps raise HDL or good cholesterol levels.

  •  Reduce Stress.

What can I do if I have high cholesterol?

  •  Eat more fresh fruit and vegetables (including frozen vegetables) and whole grain foods.

  •  Have at least two servings of low-fat milk a day.

  •  Eat fish at least twice a week.

  •  Reduce or exclude dairy, meat and hardened vegetable fats when cooking.

  •  Limit red meat portions to approximately 120g of uncooked meat per day.

  •  If replacing red meat with hard cheese, remember that 30g of cheese equates to 120g of lean red meat.

  •  Avoid processed foods, snacks and meals unless the fat and salt content is known.

  •  Reduce the number of eggs you eat each week to two or three.

  •  Stop smoking.

  •  Maintain an exercise routine, as exercise helps to raise HDL or good cholesterol levels.

If changes to your diet and exercise routines are not effective in adequately lowering cholesterol levels after three to six months, your doctor may prescribe medication.

For more information on cholesterol log onto

Some handy hints for dealing with cholesterol include:

1. Set realistic goals and introduce change slowly to your diet and exercise routines. This allows time for your body and taste buds to adapt and you will be more likely to continue with the changes rather than revert to our old bad habits.

2. Keeping a food diary is a great way to become aware of your habits and highlight areas that require change.

3. Change cooking methods to avoid using fat. Steam, microwave, poach, grill or bake food rather than fry or roast. Use non-stick spray oils on cookware rather than pouring oil into a pan. Use only enough oil to coat cooking pans to stop food sticking, rather than having it sit in a pool of oil.

4. Remove the skin from poultry and trim the fat off meat before cooking.

5. Replace red meat with more fish and chicken.

6. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats may be used sparingly in place of saturated fats. For example dip bread in olive oil or use an olive oil spread rather than butter.

7. Limit your use of vegetable products such as coconut cream that are high in saturated fat.

8. Replace oily dressings and mayonnaise with lemon juice, vinegar or pre made-low fat dressings.


As individuals the exercise component of our daily routine, needs to fit our individual requirements. Exercise should be sufficient enough to burn fat, but not uncomfortable and be enjoyable. If exercise causes discomfort or pain, and is not enjoyable it is less likely to become part of a regular routine.

When starting out on a new exercise routine, the key to gaining fitness is to build the level of intensity slowly. You don't need expensive equipment all you need is how you feel.
As your body becomes accustomed to exercise you will be able to increase the amount of time you spend exercising and the intensity.


Walking is the cheapest and simplest way to exercise. It is part of our everyday lives and as little as walking ten minutes a day can make a difference to your health.

  •  Start by parking you car away from the supermarket door or a block away from where you have to go.

  •  If you have a dog or a horse, take them with you.

  •  Join a walking group or get involved with your local school walking bus.

  •  Walk to the local shop to collect your newspaper or milk. If you have a dog or a horse, take them with you.

  •  Leaving the car at home, catching a bus and getting off the bus a stop early and walking the last leg to your destination is also a great way to get your level of activity up.

  •  Set yourself a goal to build your walking up to a 30 minute session a day. Start with 3 x 5-minute sessions daily and increase them by a minute or two each week.

  •  If the weather is bad, go to a mall and window shop. Try walking from the store at the furthest end of the mall to the other end and back without stopping at each shop window. If you have a set of stairs in your house, walk up and down them two or three times.

Swimming & Aqua Jogging

Swimming and aqua jogging are great alternatives to walking, especially for those who suffer from back, joint and leg pain. The water provides buoyancy, relieving pressure. Contact your local council to see if there is a swim or aqua jogging class in your area.

Bike Riding

Riding a bike is a great activity for all the family, whether it is along the foreshore or off road.  There are bikes and cycle ways to suit all ages and levels of fitness. Remember to always wear a properly fitted helmet - even in the back yard.

For further information on cycling in New Zealand log onto:

Skipping Rope

Jump Rope for Heart is a fun way for people of all ages to improve fitness levels and develop their co-ordination skills.

Around the house everyday activities can add to your level of exercise, vacuuming, washing the floor, cleaning windows and mowing the lawn all involve physical activity. Think about pegging clothes out on the clothes line rather than popping them in the dryer. You will not only save on electricity but increase your level of exercise.

You can also use a range of household items to improve muscle tone, it's cheaper than joining a gym. Do a few push-ups, crunches and use cans of tomatoes for bicep curls and tricep extensions. Use your front step to firm your legs and buttocks by doing step ups.

Warm and cold weather can both influence our attitudes to and our levels of physical activity. There are thousands of options from playing a game of tag to flying a kite. For more ideas on how you can increase not only your level of physical activity check out: