How To Reduce High Cholesterol
There is a pretty strong chance that you would’ve heard the word ‘cholesterol’ branded about in the news and on television, but are you aware of what it is and that it is carried around your body through your blood. To put it simply, cholesterol is a combination of fat and protein, and can either be beneficial or harmful to your health – depending on the levels found within your blood stream:
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL) – often known as ‘good cholesterol’, HDL helps to rid your blood vessels of excess cholesterol, carrying it through to your liver which then breaks it down for your body to get rid of it. This form of cholesterol helps reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) – often known as ‘bad cholesterol’, LDL carries the cholesterol from your liver around your body to the cells that need it. However, if your LDL levels are too high in your body, fatty deposits can be formed which increases your chances of heart disease and stroke.
Unfortunately you’re unlikely to know if you have high cholesterol as it provides no symptoms, but it can be incredibly harmful to your health. If you tick off any of the below, it’s worth getting your cholesterol checked by your GP at the next possible opportunity;
- If you’re over the age of 40
- Your family history includes high cholesterol
- You already have risk factors for heart disease or stroke (for example, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes or you’re overweight)
- You’ve already had heart disease or suffered a stroke
- There are yellow patches on your skin and/or around your eyes
If you’ve already been to the doctors and are now diagnosed as having high cholesterol, there are a number of lifestyle changes you can make in order to reduce the levels in your body.…
Limit your intake of bad fats and cholesterol
Saturated fats, trans fats and dietary cholesterol are all aspects that you should look to reduce within your diet.
Processed foods and red meats are particularly high in saturated fat, so you’ll want to look at red meats with 30% or less fat. Similarly, trans fats can be found in food items such as cakes, crisps, fried food and margarines, so it’s best to limit or remove these from your diet. Dietary cholesterol can be found in the likes of egg yolks, organ meats and shellfish, so whilst it’s good to have some in your diet, it’s worth limiting yourself to just a small amount per week.
Eat more fruit, veg and fish
Fish in particular is full of Omega 3 fatty acids which, despite the word ‘fatty’, are actually good for you, protecting against heart disease. Salmon, herring, sardines, mackerel and halibut are all great examples of cold-water fish that are particularly high in Omega 3 fatty acids.
Fruit and veg is known to be particularly high in antioxidants that help to reduce cholesterol, with cabbage, blueberries, avocado, carrots, grapes, onions, soy beans and tomatoes having the highest levels. All the ingredients mentioned above can be used to make fresh fruit platters or added to homemade soups and salads.
Reduce your alcohol intake
Drinking an excessive amount of alcohol will increase your cholesterol levels, so if you enjoy a few too many tipples in an average week then you should do your best to try and cut down. That being said, alcohol isn’t entirely bad for you and a little (in moderate consumption) can go a long way in increasing your HDL levels and protecting you from the risk of heart disease.
Whilst indirectly linked to high cholesterol, smoking can increase the damage done to your body by high cholesterol, and further adds to your risk of heart disease. Research over the years has suggested that those who smoke are less likely to have a healthy diet with regards to food, and when you quit and your taste sense enhances you’re going to want to immerse yourself in more delicious, and healthy flavours.
Get physically active
If your Doctor or GP gives you the “OK”, it’s advised that you try to fit in 30 minutes of physical activity and exercise at least three times a week, working to increase your HDL levels and therefore reduce your high cholesterol. Exercise is great accompaniment with a clean eating lifestyle, particularly for those who want or need to lose some excess weight.
Lose excess weight
Losing excess weight doesn’t only help to reduce your cholesterol level, reducing the excess pressure that your body is being put under, but it also helps reduce your risk of diabetes, stroke, gout, high blood pressure and a number of cancers.
If you have high cholesterol, please note that these are just a few tips to help you on the road to recovery, but if you think that you may have high cholesterol get yourself an appointment with your GP and find out one way the other. It’s better than being unsure and sitting there doing nothing about it.