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What is High Cholesterol and How Can You Reduce It?

Cholesterol is a fat found in the blood and is vital for your body’s normal functioning as it is used to create cell membranes, hormones and certain vitamins.

You source cholesterol from your food, but it is also produced by your liver. There is both good and bad cholesterol. Good cholesterol (HDL) carries cholesterol away from the cells back to the liver where it’s broken down or disposed of as waste product, therefore high levels of HDL are good for you. Bad cholesterol (non-HDL) performs a vital task in carrying cholesterol to the cells, but if the levels are higher than needed, over time this can lead to a significant danger to your health.

If your cholesterol level is high, plaque can build up in your blood vessels thereby restricting blood flow and increasing the risk of heart and cardiovascular diseases including stroke and heart attack

Several factors can lead to high cholesterol levels

  • Family history
  • Being overweight
  • Eating too much fatty foods – for example red meat, butter, fried foods, cheese and saturated fat
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Lack of exercise

Whilst there are no symptoms of high cholesterol, a simple finger prick test can determine if there is an issue. A GP can test your cholesterol levels, or if you are a member of a Nuffield Health gym you will have a test as part of your Health MOT.

What you can do about it

If you have high blood pressure or cholesterol, speak to your GP before making changes to your diet, especially if you are on medication.

If you are overweight then loosing some of that weight will help, as will reducing the amount of alcohol you drink and cutting out cigarettes.

Switch into eating more of the following foods:

  • Fruits and vegetables, particularly spinach, beetroot, celery and lettuces. Lean proteins like chicken and turkey.
  • High fibre foods such as oats and beans.
  • Good fats, such as those found in olive oil, nuts and fatty fish like mackerel, trout or salmon.