High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips
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The Mayo Clinic says the same heart-healthy lifestyle changes that can lower your cholesterol can help prevent you from having high cholesterol in the first place. Therefore, it says that to help prevent high cholesterol, you can eat a low-salt diet that emphasises fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Heart UK explains fruits and vegetables can help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and some cancers.
It says: “They contain vitamins, minerals and plant chemicals which help you to stay healthy, and most contain little or no fat and are low in calories, so they can help you to stay a healthy weight.”
The organisation explains fruit and vegetables are also high in fibre, and some types of fibre can help to lower your cholesterol.
“It blocks some cholesterol from being absorbed from the intestines into the bloodstream,” explains Heart UK.
The Mayo Clinic also suggests:
- Limit the amount of animal fats and use good fats in moderation
- Lose extra pounds and maintain a healthy weight
- Quit smoking
- Exercise on most days of the week for at least 30 minutes
- Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all
- Manage stress
It says: “Factors you can control — such as inactivity, obesity and an unhealthy diet — contribute to harmful cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Factors beyond your control might play a role, too.
“For example, your genetic makeup might make it more difficult for your body to remove LDL cholesterol from your blood or break it down in the liver.”
Heart UK says some foods contain cholesterol, but surprisingly they don’t make a big difference to the cholesterol in your blood.
It notes: “That’s because most of us eat less than 300mg of cholesterol per day – a small amount compared to the amount of saturated fat we eat.
“Cholesterol is made mainly in the liver. But it’s also found in animal foods such as eggs, shellfish, meat and dairy products.”
The organisation states: “All animal foods contain some cholesterol. But by cutting down on the animal foods that contain saturated fats you will be keeping the cholesterol in your diet in check too.”
Heart UK explains cholesterol is only found in foods that come from animals, there is no cholesterol in foods that come from plants.
“So, there is no cholesterol in fruit, vegetables, grains, seeds, nuts, beans, peas and lentils,” it adds.
The NHS outlines a number of other lifestyle changes you may be able to make to lower your cholesterol.
A key one is to cut down on alcohol. You should try to avoid drinking more than 14 units of alcohol a week, and avoid binge drinking. You can ask your GP for help if you are struggling to cut down.
You might need medicine to lower your cholesterol if your cholesterol level has not gone down after changing your diet and lifestyle.
If you’re aged 40 to 74, you can get your cholesterol checked as part of an NHS Health Check.
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) recommends all adults have a cholesterol check at any age, even if they feel completely well. It should be repeated every five years – or more often if the test was abnormal.
The cholesterol blood test measures your levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and your total cholesterol to HDL ratio.
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