It’s estimated that almost half of adults in the UK have cholesterol levels that are higher than the national guidelines. Having high cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease but there are some easy lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your cholesterol levels. First, let’s take a closer look at what high cholesterol is.
Cholesterol is a natural waxy substance that is made in your liver. It has lots of important functions, such as forming cells and making hormones.
Cholesterol is also present in the foods we eat. If you eat too much food that is high in cholesterol or cholesterol builds up in the wrong places, such as your arteries, it can cause problems. High cholesterol can put you at risk of a number of serious health problems, including a heart attack and stroke.
There are a number of things that can raise your cholesterol levels including eating too much fatty food, not exercising enough, smoking, drinking too much alcohol and being overweight. So let’s take a look at what you can do to reduce your cholesterol levels.
Eating a diet that is high in trans fats or saturated fats can increase your cholesterol levels. These can be found in butter, cream, cheese, fatty meats, cakes, biscuits and highly processed or fried foods. If you have high cholesterol, you should therefore cut back on these foods, as well as foods containing coconut oil and palm oil.
However, not all fats are bad for you; polyunsaturated fats and plant-based monounsaturated fats are good for your body. These can be found in oily fish, nuts, seeds and avocados — each of these examples contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for your heart.
Soluble fibre binds cholesterol and removes it from your body before it has a chance to build up in your arteries. Consequently, eating foods that are high in soluble fibre, such as oats and whole grains, is a good way to reduce your cholesterol. Choose whole grain breads and breakfast cereals or oatmeal for an easy, healthy meal.
Other good sources of soluble fibre include black beans, kidney beans, lima beans, Brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, broccoli and carrots.
If you are overweight you’re more likely to have high cholesterol levels, so working to reach and maintain a healthy weight is an important part of lowering your cholesterol. You can speak to your GP about what a healthy weight is for your height and build or for a general guide, you can use an online body mass index (BMI) calculator.
Smoking is associated with an increased risk of a whole host of diseases, including bronchitis, emphysema, a variety of different cancers, heart disease, heart attack and stroke. It can also increase your risk of high cholesterol as cigarettes contain a chemical called acrolein. Acrolein stops your body from transporting cholesterol to the liver, causing raised cholesterol levels in your blood.
Increasing your physical activity and exercising regularly can raise your body’s levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), a type of cholesterol that is actually good for your body because it helps get rid of bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, LDL).
If you aren’t used to exercising, start gradually (eg by taking a walk) and then work your way up to higher intensity exercises. When walking, try to do so at a brisk pace so you can feel your heart beating faster. You can also try cycling, swimming or taking an exercise class.
As you gradually increase the amount of exercise in your daily routine, try to aim for 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week.
If you regularly drink large amounts of alcohol it can raise your cholesterol levels as well as damage your liver, which plays an important role in helping your body get rid of cholesterol. Try not to drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week and avoid binge drinking.
High cholesterol often doesn’t have any obvious symptoms so it’s important to get your levels checked if you’re concerned and monitor them if you know you have high cholesterol. Lifestyle changes aren’t always enough to lower your cholesterol so your GP may prescribe a type of medication called statins to help.
If you're concerned about symptoms you're experiencing or require further information on the subject, talk to a GP or see an expert consultant at your local Spire hospital.
Niched in the care sector, Cahoot Care Marketing offers a full range of marketing services for care businesses including: SEO, social media, websites and video marketing, specialising in copywriting and content marketing.
Over the last five years Cahoot Care Marketing has built an experienced team of writers and editors, with broad and deep expertise on a range of care topics. They provide a responsive, efficient and comprehensive service, ensuring content is on brand and in line with relevant medical guidelines.
Their writers and editors include care sector workers, healthcare copywriting specialists and NHS trainers, who thoroughly research all topics using reputable sources including the NHS, NICE, relevant Royal Colleges and medical associations.
The Spire Content Hub project was managed by:
Lux Fatimathas, Editor and Project Manager
Lux has a BSc(Hons) in Neuroscience from UCL, a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and experience as a postdoctoral researcher in developmental biology. She has a clear and extensive understanding of the biological and medical sciences. Having worked in scientific publishing for BioMed Central and as a writer for the UK’s Medical Research Council and the National University of Singapore, she is able to clearly communicate complex concepts.
Catriona Shaw, Lead Editor
Catriona has an English degree from the University of Southampton and more than 12 years’ experience copy editing across a range of complex topics. She works with a diverse team of writers to create clear and compelling copy to educate and inform.
Alfie Jones, Director — Cahoot Care Marketing
Alfie has a creative writing degree from UCF and initially worked as a carer before supporting his family’s care training business with copywriting and general marketing. He has worked in content marketing and the care sector for over 10 years and overseen a diverse range of care content projects, building a strong team of specialist writers and marketing creatives after founding Cahoot in 2016.