High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips
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The British Heart Foundation (BHF) pointed out the benefits of an NHS Health Check – available for free from the age of 40 – as it measures your blood cholesterol levels. If you’re under the age of 40 – or have not had a free NHS Health Check – how can you tell if you have high cholesterol? One telling sign of the condition – highlighted by healthcare group Bupa – can arise when you exercise.
If you feel pain in your calves while exercising, which disappears upon rest, you could have elevated cholesterol.
People should aim to have a total cholesterol reading of 4mmol/L or less, added the BHF.
In fact, the lower the cholesterol reading, the better – except for the high-density lipoprotein (HDL) marker.
Bupa explained the differences between the types of cholesterol.
For instance, “good” cholesterol – otherwise known as HDL – helps to get rid of excess cholesterol in the body.
It does this by carrying the excess cholesterol from your tissues to your liver, where it can be broken down.
“Bad” cholesterol, on the other hand – known as non-HDL – carries cholesterol from the liver to the cells around the body where it’s needed.
However, when there’s an accumulation of non-HDL, it can form fatty deposits that embed along the artery walls.
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This would narrow the arteries, which are the passageway for blood, restricting the delivery of oxygen around the body.
If no oxygen reaches the heart, a heart attack will occur; if no oxygen reaches the brain, a stroke will occur.
What causes high cholesterol?
Cholesterol levels increase if you:
- Have a diet high in saturated fat
- Don’t exercise frequently
- Are overweight
- Drink too much alcohol.
“Sometimes, high cholesterol can be caused by a condition that runs in your family called familial hypercholesterolaemia,” Bupa added.
“This means you may have a very high cholesterol level, even if you have a healthy lifestyle.”
Poorly controlled diabetes, kidney and liver disease, and an under-active thyroid can all contribute to high cholesterol.
Minimise your risk of high cholesterol
Saturated fats are mainly from animal products, such as cheese and meat.
To help decrease the amount of saturated fat that you eat, it’ll help to “go for lower-fat” options.
This includes choosing lean cuts of meat, or choosing alternatives to meat, such as beans, tofu, or lentils.
Bupa stated that “low-fat ways of cooking” could help maintain or lower cholesterol levels.
For example, grilling, steaming, or baking foods is healthier than frying.
In addition, when you do cook with fat, use unsaturated fats, such as olive oil.
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