High Cholesterol

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Cholesterol is vital in the body for every cell to function. However, there are “good” and “bad” forms of cholesterol.

What is High Cholesterol?

LDL cholesterol is “bad” cholesterol and if you have high levels (usually > 3 mmol/L) it may put you at risk for a heart attack or stroke particularly if you have other risk factors such as smoking or high blood pressure. Ways to lower your LDL cholesterol include eating less saturated fat which is typically found in red meat, butter, cream, cheese, milk or deep fried foods. Replacing these unhealthy fats with healthy fats helps. There are two type of healthy fats either monounsaturated fat e.g. olive oil, nuts, avocados or polyunsaturated fat e.g. sunflower oil or oily fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna).

 

HDL cholesterol on the other hand is a “good” cholesterol and high levels can protect you against heart attack or stroke (> 1 mmol/L for a man or > 1.2 mmol/L for a woman). The best way to raise your HDL is to be physically active and not to smoke.

 

Triglycerides are another form of fat in the blood and may contribute to heart disease if they are high. The commonest cause of high triglycerides is too much alcohol or central obesity (“fat around your middle”). However, some medications can also cause high triglycerides. Rarely, high triglycerides can be due to a genetic problem that runs in families. The best way to lower triglycerides is to reduce your alcohol consumption and lose weight.

 

One of the causes of high blood cholesterol levels amount people in the UK is eating too much saturated fat.

The cholesterol which is found in some foods such as eggs, liver, kidneys and some types of seafood eg. prawns, does not usually make a great contribution to the level of cholesterol in your blood.  It is much more important that you eat foods that are low in saturated fat. 

However, some people have high blood cholesterol even though they eat a healthy diet. For example, they may have inherited a condition called familial hyperlipidaemia (FH).

Is the condition preventable? If so, how?

To help reduce your cholesterol level, you need to cut down on saturated fats and trans fats and replace them with monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.  You should also reduce the total amount of fat you eat. 

 

  • Eat oily fish regularly.  Oily fish provides the richest source of a particular type of polyunsaturated fat known as omega-3 fats which can help to lower blood triglyceride levels and also helps prevent the blood from clotting, and help to regulate the heart rhythm. 
  • Eat a high-fibre diet.  Foods that are high in 'soluble fibre' such as porridge, beans, pulses, lentils, nuts, fruits and vegetables, can help lower cholesterol.  
  • Doing regular physical activity can help increase your HDL cholesterol (the 'protective' type of cholesterol).

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