Six out of ten adults are reported to have high cholesterol, according to Public Health England.1 More worryingly, many individuals are said to be undiagnosed, because for the majority there are no visible signs or symptoms. Cholesterol is often referred to as 'the silent killer’ for this reason.
However, cholesterol itself is no bad thing. It is a naturally-occurring substance in the body, produced by the liver, and is an essential part of every cell, and vital for the normal functioning of the body.2 The problem occurs when levels become too high, sometimes due to diet and lifestyle issues, or other factors such as genetics, ethnicity or gender.3
High cholesterol is linked to a higher risk of heart attack, stroke, narrowing of the arteries and other cardiovascular diseases2, so it’s easy to see why it’s important to keep an eye on your cholesterol levels and to understand how to regulate it if it starts to get a little high.
Checking your cholesterol level is easy – your local GP or practice nurse can carry out a quick test by taking a blood sample, either using a needle and syringe or by simply pricking your finger.
Many of the ways to tackle high cholesterol are simply about making healthier lifestyle choices – so what can you do to help reduce your cholesterol?
Those with a waist circumference of 80cm or more (or 94cm for men) are more likely to develop obesity-related health problems, which include high cholesterol.4
Even a five to ten per cent loss on your starting weight can have a positive impact on your health, and can result in a five point increase in the so-called ‘good type’ of cholesterol, HDL, which is said to reduce the risk of developing heart disease.5
Speak to your doctor or health care practitioner about the best way to go about losing weight before you embark on a weight loss plan.
Food for thought
In general, to lower your cholesterol, try and do the following with your diet:
- Limit saturated fats, as these are known to raise Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL cholesterol, or ‘the bad kind’).6 Examples of foods high in saturated fats are cheese, meat and other animal-derived foods
- Increase fibre-rich foods, which help reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream.7 Examples of fibre-rich foods include porridge oats, almonds, apples and kidney beans
- Favour protein rich plants over meat, such as spinach, walnuts, beans and avocados, which not only give you the protein you need without the saturated fat found in animal-based products, but also have other benefits. For example, lutein in spinach is said to help prevent clogged arteries by lowering bad cholesterol8
Do more exercise
Doing more exercise has many benefits – not only can it aid with weight loss, but it can improve mood and physical fitness too.
Include more exercise into your day by making small changes, such as getting off the bus a stop early and walking the extra distance or opting to take the stairs instead of a lift, or by making a more concerted effort, such as joining an exercise class or going out for a jog a few times a week.
If you’re not a fan of the gym, don’t let that put you off; check out our blog for some fun ways to incorporate exercise into your daily routine without stepping foot in a gym.
Cutting down on smoking or stopping altogether can be beneficial for your cholesterol and your health in general. Cigarette smoke raises levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol and a blood fat called triglycerides – both of which cause waxy plaque to build up in your arteries. The smoke also lowers levels of ‘good’ cholesterol, which is the kind that prevents plaque from forming in your arteries.9
Book an appointment with your GP to check your cholesterol level. If you do have high cholesterol, your doctor or health care practitioner can then advise the right course of action for you.
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1 Public Health England https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2015/10/12/high-cholesterol-beating-the-build-up-during-cholesterol-month/
2 NHS https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/high-cholesterol/
3 NHS https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/high-cholesterol/causes/
4 NHS https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/obesity/
5 Obesity Action https://www.obesityaction.org/community/article-library/benefits-of-5-10-percent-weight-loss/
6 NHS https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/different-fats-nutrition/
7 Mayo Clinic https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/cholesterol/art-20045192
8 One Green Planet http://www.onegreenplanet.org/natural-health/plant-based-foods-that-promote-healthier-cholesterol-levels/
9 WebMD https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/quit-smoking-helps-heart#1