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What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a lipid (fat), which is produced mainly by the liver. It is essential for normal body functions.
There are two kinds of cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which is also called “good” cholesterol. There is also low-density lipoprotein (LDL), often referred to as “bad” cholesterol.
What happens if cholesterol levels are high?
Too much LDL or “bad” cholesterol in the blood can increase the risk of heart disease, artherosclerosis, heart attack, angina, stroke and other cardiovascular conditions (diseases of the heart and blood vessels).
How do you get high cholesterol?
Some of the common causes of high cholesterol include:
- Genetic susceptibility
- A diet high in unsaturated fats, such as: junk food, cream sausages, red meat, cakes, pastry, egg yolks, liver, kidney, butter and solid fats such as lard (there are many more).
- Being overweight/obese
- Lack of physical activity
How can you reduce the “bad” cholesterol levels?
Reduce the amount of saturated fats in your diet:
- Eat less butter and cheese (saturated fats) and eat more extra virgin olive oil, avocado, walnuts and fish oil (mono & polyunsaturated fats).
- Reduce the total amount of fat you eat, especially if you are overweight, as fat is very high in calories.
- Eating oily fish such as sardines, salmon, trout, mackerel, pilchards, and herring will help reduce fat levels in the blood and help prevent blood from clotting.
Eat more fibre:
- Wholegrain, porridge, beans, fruit and vegetables.
- Eat more fruit and vegetables – plan to eat at least 5 portions a day but aim for 10!
- Soya products are naturally low in saturated fat and a good source of soluble fibre, antioxidants and protein.
Take more exercise:
- Being active can increase the level of HDL (good) cholesterol. It can also help lower your blood pressure, help you to maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of developing diabetes.
- Doing regular physical activity for 30 minutes a day on at least five days a week can help improve your cholesterol level.
Take your medication:
If you are diagnosed with high cholesterol, eating healthy and taking more exercise, remain essential but sometimes your doctor may start you on tablets to lower your cholesterol level in the blood. It is important that you take the medication as prescribed.