A ‘great place to start’ if you want to lower high cholesterol

High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips

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However, Dr Cho cautioned: “Always check with your doctor before starting an exercise program, especially if your high cholesterol is putting you at more immediate risk for heart disease or stroke.”

While an exercise programme is normally best when planned, any exercise is better than no exercise with the NHS recommending a minimum 150 minutes of exercise a week. Furthermore, as well as lowering cholesterol levels, exercise can help to build muscle and improve mental health.

However, though exercise can help lower cholesterol, it isn’t the only way. Dr Cho suggested other ways people can reduce their levels of the lipid substance. One of these ways was to avoid saturated and trans fats.

The doctor wrote: “You can lower your cholesterol by limiting the type of foods you eat. This means becoming a food label reader. There should be no more than 2 grams of fat per serving, and it should account for less than 7 percent of your daily calorie intake.

“Trans fats have a very negative impact on the body. Not only do they worsen your cholesterol, but they also increase your markers of inflammation. This can lead to inflamed blood vessels, a risk factor for heart attacks.”

Alongside remaining wary of saturated fats, doctors say it is crucial for people to lose as much abdominal (visceral) fat as possible; one of the best ways to do this is through regular exercise as well as a balanced diet.

Professor Joshua Septimus, who also spoke to Eat This, Not That, said: “Central obesity is a marker for increased inflammation within the body, which can result in cholesterol build-up in your blood vessels.

“It’s also a marker for unstable plaque. Remember, once plaque becomes unstable, the risk of stroke and heart attack increase.”

All of this will help someone to lose weight, doctor Cho added: “If you lose even a small amount of weight, your HDL will go up and your LDL will come down. Losing five to 10 pounds (two point two to five and a half kilos) can lower your total cholesterol by five to 10 percent.”

However, it isn’t all about losing weight. Other lifestyle habits, such as smoking can also have a dramatic impact on cholesterol levels. On this Professor Septimus said: “Smoking causes inflammation and damage to your blood vessels, leading to unstable cholesterol plaque and, ultimately, increases your risk of plaque rupture.”

Therefore, quitting smoking is one of the best ways for someone to lower their cholesterol and is also effective should someone wish to lower their risk of developing cancer too.

However, while eating a healthier diet and reducing alcohol consumption can help reduce someone’s cholesterol levels, this doesn’t work for everyone and occasionally medication in the form of statins is required to assist the body.

Statins work by reducing the amount of cholesterol produced in the liver. Although these can be effective, they can produce some side effects.

What does the NHS say?

With regard to lowering cholesterol, the NHS advises: “To reduce your cholesterol, try to cut down on fatty food, especially food that contains a type of fat called saturated fat. You can still have foods that contain a healthier type of fat called unsaturated fat. Check labels on food to see what type of fat it has in it.”

The types of food recommended by the health service to help people lower their cholesterol include:
• Oily fish
• Brown rice
• Bread
• Pasta
• Nuts and seeds
• Fruits and vegetables.

In common with others, the NHS also recommends exercise. It says: “Aim to do at least 150 minutes of exercise a week.” The types of exercise suggested include walking, swimming, and cycling.

Poor lifestyle habits are also noted as things to avoid by the NHS include excessive alcohol consumption. They recommend that people should avoid drinking more than 14 units of alcohol a week, have several drink-free days every week, and “avoid drinking lots of alcohol in a short-time”.

Alongside others, the NHS also suggests quitting smoking as a way to improve overall health and reduce cardiovascular risk: “Smoking can raise your cholesterol and make you more likely to have serious problems like heart attacks, strokes, and cancer.”

Should these changes not be effective, statins may be used. However, they aren’t the only medications prescribed.

Others, such as ezetimibe, fibrates, bile acid sequestrants, and bempedoic acid are also recommended, but these will only be prescribed after other methods have failed.

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