Your Doctor

The Best Ways to Lower Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a fatty substance found in all cells in the human body. Cholesterol is produced mainly by the liver and found in some foods. It is needed to make hormones, vitamin D and other substances(bile) that help us digest foods. Cholesterol is also found in red meat and some dairy produce like fatty cheeses, butter and eggs.

There are two types of cholesterol carriers called lipoproteins; HDL (high density lipoproteins) and LDL (Low density lipoproteins). HDL is protective and ‘good’ but, LDL is branded as ‘bad cholesterol’ because too much of it is unhealthy and can increase heart and circulatory diseases. 

Unhealthy blood or high cholesterol levels can be due to the genes that you have inherited, but it can also be caused by your poor lifestyle or unhealthy diet choices. Your age, ethnicity, medical history and even sex can also influence how likely you are to have high cholesterol. 

High cholesterol levels can increase your risk of stroke and heart disease (especially if you are aged over 40). In the UK alone, over 70,000 people die per year from coronary heart disease and 40,000 people die per year as a result of a stroke.

Lowering your cholesterol levels helps to reduce your risk of developing these life-threatening illnesses. 

Manage what you eat

The best way to manage cholesterol levels is through diet. In order to balance your cholesterol, swap processed meats for Omega-3-rich rich fish, such as salmon and sardines, although limit these to twice a week because of mercury content. Oily fish and the fats found in them can help to reduce inflammatory processes in the body and protect against some chronic diseases. 

Eat small amounts of food containing unsaturated fats like almonds and avocados. Almonds are a great topping for summer salads and avocados can replace unhealthy spreads and sandwich fillings.

In addition, try to up the amount of fibre you have you in your diet. Soluble fibre can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. It’s easy to get your recommended 30g of fibre a day as there are a range of fibre-rich foods you can enjoy. Choose from: wholemeal bread, bran, oats, potato skins, beans, lentils, fruits and vegetables. 

Eating your 5-a-day in particular will mean your body is absorbing a good number of vitamins and minerals which will help your body fight against the absorption of bad cholesterol. There is a push towards 7-10 portions a day but we would encourage you to build this into your diet gradually.

Anti-oxidant rich blueberries are thought to help lower LDL cholesterol for example. Red fruits like apples, grapes and strawberries are rich in pectin, a type of soluble fibre that also lowers LDL – they taste great too! 

Change the way you cook

Keeping healthy is not all about what you eat, but also how you eat. Changing the way you cook food can massively reduce your risk of illness. Instead of frying and roasting foods in fat, try grilling or steaming food as a way of reducing the amount of fat in your diet. If you use milk and cream in your cooking, swap for low-fat or plant-based milk such as soya, oat or almond versions. Be aware that low fat often means it has a higher sugar content so if you use full fat or cream - use less of it.

In our busy day-to-day life, it can be tempting to opt for fast food lunches. However convenient and tempting these may be, they are often the unhealthiest and do not keep you full for long. Spend a little extra time preparing your favourite healthy meals rather than grab-and-go style supermarket spends. This is a sure-fire way of reducing cholesterol as ready meals are often prepared with poor quality cooking oils.

Don’t stress

It is not necessarily stressful life events that are problematic, but how one deals with them. Stress seems to trigger higher cortisol levels which triggers the liver to secrete more LDL. This is normally a response to glucose and fatty acids that the body can deal with correctly as a result of your stress and also affects the body’s ability to produce the protective HDL.

In addition, you are more likely to eat unhealthily and have a higher body weight if you suffer from excessive stress over a long period of time. Try not to overwork or overload yourself to protect yourself from developing heart disease. Enjoy a holiday this summer to alleviate stress and boost levels of Vitamin D!

Control your BMI

If you’re overweight then you should take steps to lose weight to reduce your risk of developing heart disease. Losing excess weight is beneficial for all sorts of reasons, from improving your cholesterol profile to preventing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes and cancer. Lose excess weight gradually by changing your lifestyle including enjoying regular exercise. Regular exercise can increase your HDL (good protective cholesterol) by 4-5%. 

If you want to get on top of your heart health, then book in for our special February promotion cardiovascular assessment.