Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is carried in the blood by proteins. Having high cholesterol can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, atherosclerosis and peripheral arterial disease. When cholesterol builds up in the artery walls, it restricts blood flow to the heart, brain and body, encouraging the development of blood clots and coronary heart disease. With the risks of high cholesterol being severe, here’s how you can lower yours.
Eating a balanced diet and reducing saturated fat intake is the best way to lower your cholesterol. Some foods also naturally contain cholesterol, called dietary cholesterol.
According to the NHS, most people in the UK eat too much saturated fat. Fat is essential for the healthy functioning of the body but eating too much of the saturated type can raise the level of cholesterol in the blood. Replacing these foods with those high in unsaturated fats such as oily fish, nuts, seeds and avocados, can help to reduce cholesterol levels.
Reducing trans fats and the total amount of fat in your diet can also help to reduce the risk of cholesterol and heart disease. Small amounts of trans fats can be found naturally in animal products and may also be present in processed foods. Choose lean cuts of meat, lower-fat dairy products and substitute fried foods for grilled, steamed, poached or boiled alternatives.
The NHS recommends that adults eat at least 30 grams of fibre a day, a habit that can help lower the risk of heart disease and cholesterol. Sources of fibre include: wholemeal bread, wholegrain cereals, fruit, vegetables, potatoes, oats, beans, lentils, peas, nuts and seeds.
Completing 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week has been shown to improve cholesterol levels. This means working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat, and could include walking, cycling or energetic dancing.
A chemical found in cigarettes has also been linked to atherosclerosis, so giving up smoking can help to lower your cholesterol levels.
Statins are medicines that lower cholesterol—they are usually offered to people who have already been diagnosed with coronary heart disease or another cardiovascular condition. Statins may also be prescribed for someone whose personal or family medical history renders them likely to develop it in the next 10 years.
Foods to cut down on:
- Meat pies
- Fatty cuts of meat
- Hard cheese
- Cakes and biscuits
- Coconut and palm oil
This article was originally published in Live to 100 with Dr Hilary Jones. Read the digital edition, here.