Health tips: Lowering your cholesterol
Cholesterol is a fatty substance known as a lipid which is vital for the normal functioning of the body. It’s mainly made normally by the liver, but can also be found in some foods.
If you have an excessively high level of lipids in your blood, also known as hyperlipidemia, it could start to have a negative impact on your health.
Why is high cholesterol bad?
Evidence strongly indicates that high cholesterol can increase the risk of:
- narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis)
- heart attack
- transient ischaemic attack (TIA)
- peripheral arterial disease (PAD)
What causes high cholesterol?
High cholesterol can be caused by an unhealthy diet – in particular, eating high levels of saturated fat found in food such as butter; cakes and biscuits; fatty meat and meat products such as sausages; full fat cheese, milk, cream and yogurt.
Smoking is also a risk factor as a chemical found in cigarettes called acrolein, interferes with the way your body transports cholesterol from fatty deposits to the liver, leading to narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis).
If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, and/or a family history of stroke or heart disease, then you have an increased risk of high cholesterol. An inherited condition, called familial hypercholesterolaemia, can also cause high cholesterol even in someone who eats healthily.
How can you lower your cholesterol?
In order to reduce your cholesterol you must maintain a healthy, balanced diet which is low in fatty food.
Vegetables and other plant-based foods are a good choice because plants don’t contain cholesterol and are usually low in saturated fat. These include oat cereals, barley fruit, vegetables, soya foods and drinks, beans and pulses, nuts and seeds such as:
- Oat breakfast cereals
- Bread made with 50% oat flour or oat bran
- Pearl barley
- Baked beans
- Adzuki beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, butter beans, cannellini beans, chickpeas, edamame beans, kidney beans, split peas
- Red lentils, green lentils
- Fruit and vegetables rich in soluble fibre such as okra, aubergine, citrus fruits, turnip, sweet potato and mango
- Almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, cashews, peanuts (always unsalted)
Lifestyle changes, such as taking regular exercise and giving up smoking, will also make a big difference in helping to lower your cholesterol and keep it down.