High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips
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Fortunately, many people can lower their cholesterol by eating healthily, and making lifestyle changes. If you have been advised to make dietary changes, there are a number of things to consider. We need some cholesterol to stay healthy, though there are some forms which are considered bad for us. Changing what you eat, being more active, and stopping smoking can help get your cholesterol back to a healthy level.
There are two main types of fat, which are saturated and unsaturated. Eating too many foods high in saturated fat can raise the level of cholesterol in your blood.
The NHS says: “To reduce your cholesterol, try to cut down on fatty food, especially food that contains a type of fat called saturated fat.
“You can still have foods that contain a healthier type of fat called unsaturated fat.”
The health body says most people in the UK eat too much saturated fat.
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The American Heart Association says that in general, red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) have more saturated fat than skinless chicken, fish and plant protein, and can raise your blood cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease.
Eating plenty of fibre helps lower your risk of heart disease, and some high-fibre foods can help lower your cholesterol.
The NHS says that you should try to eat less foods, some of which are prevalent during the Christmas period.
This includes sausages, cream and hard cheese, like cheddar, and cakes and biscuits.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada says: “As a rule of thumb, steer clear of highly processed foods, even if they are lower in fat content. Low-fat or diet foods are often loaded with calories, sodium and added sugar.”
It says that it is also a good idea to add more vegetarian options like beans, lentils, tofu and nuts to your weekly meal plans, and “get in the habit of filling half your plate with vegetables and fruit”.
If you’re concerned about your cholesterol, talk to your GP. If you’re aged 40 to 74, you can get your cholesterol checked as part of an NHS Health Check.
High cholesterol does not tend to cause symptoms, so you can only find out if you have it from a blood test.
You might need medicine to lower your cholesterol if your cholesterol level has not gone down after changing your diet and lifestyle.
You may also need medicine if you’re at a high risk of having a heart attack or stroke, according to the NHS.
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) recommends all adults have a cholesterol check at any age, even if they feel completely well. It should be repeated every five years – or more often if the test was abnormal.
The cholesterol blood test measures your levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and your total cholesterol to HDL ratio.
Your total cholesterol should be 5mmol/L or less for healthy adults or 4mmol/L or less for those at high risk.
You may also need to take medicines to lower your cholesterol. Statins are the most common medicine for high cholesterol, according to the NHS. Statins work by reducing the amount of cholesterol your body makes.
The NHS says: “Like all medicines, statins can cause side effects. But most people tolerate them well and do not have any problems.
“You should discuss the benefits and risks of taking statins with your doctor before you start taking the medicine.”
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