This month is National Cholesterol Month aiming to highlight the risks of having high cholesterol levels and how to develop healthy eating habits.
Cholesterol is a substance that clogs the arteries and causes them to narrow. This then forces the heart to work extra hard and if the arteries become completely blocked, this can result in a heart attack.
Having an unhealthy diet, diabetes, high blood pressure, being overweight as well as smoking can lead to high cholesterol and increase your chances of having heart problems.
Your GP may recommend that you have your cholesterol levels checked if you:
- have been diagnosed with coronary heart disease or stroke
- are over the age of 40
- have a family history of early cardiovascular disease
- are overweight or obese
- have high blood pressure or diabetes
After your cholesterol test, your GP or nurse will explain your results and see whether you have a high, moderate or low risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
So what can be done to reduce your cholesterol levels? Georgina O’Regan, heart failure nurse specialist at Heartlands, explains: “Exercising often will reduce your cholesterol levels, make your heart and circulatory system more efficient and also keep your blood pressure at a healthy level.
“Doing 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week will help lower your cholesterol levels. Walking, swimming and cycling are good examples of this type of exercise.
“Maintaining a healthy diet will reduce your chances of developing heart disease. A low-fat diet including lots of fibre, such as wholegrain rice, bread and pasta, and plenty of fruit and vegetables, has also been shown to help lower cholesterol. Fruit and vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals and fibre, and help to keep your body in good condition. Rather than have an ice cream, have the lower fat option such as some yoghurt. Or have fruit instead of chocolate.
“If you have high cholesterol levels, there are a number of medical interventions that can lessen the symptoms if lifestyle changes alone are not enough. These include medications to help reduce your heart’s workload, lessen your levels of cholesterol, lower excessive blood pressure and help combat blood clots. All of these measures are intended to help lessen the need for surgical intervention.”
For more information on how to reduce cholesterol levels, visit www.heartuk.org.uk.