High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips
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Cholesterol is a type of fat that passes around your body in the blood circulation and if there’s too much of it, this cholesterol is deposited onto the walls of your arteries. The build-up of cholesterol in your arteries can cause an obstruction and this can lead to heart attacks, strokes and other fatal conditions. Your body makes cholesterol in the liver, but you also take it in through fatty foods in your diet and other lifestyle choices. Express.co.uk chatted to Dr Deborah Lee from Dr Fox Online Pharmacy to find out the six habits to quit if you’re trying to reduce your cholesterol.
Living with high cholesterol is extremely dangerous, and yet nearly 40 percent of people in the UK do.
If you’re at a high risk of having a heart attack or stroke, your doctor might prescribe you statins or other medicines for high cholesterol.
However, you can reduce your cholesterol with a few simple lifestyle changes.
A high-fat diet
If your diet is high in fat, this needs to change! A high-fat diet is inherently linked to raised cholesterol levels.
A diet high in saturated fats and trans fats in particular is associated with raised cholesterol.
According to Dr Lee, men should not eat more than 30g of saturated fat per day and women should not eat more than 20g.
Saturated fats are found in processed foods and fatty meats (bacon, sausages, and salami), while trans fats are solid fats like butter, cheese, and lard and are found in biscuits, cakes and pastries.
Dr Lee said: “Avoid these fats. Instead, eat unsaturated (healthy) fats derived from plant and vegetable oils such as olive oil, sunflower, and rapeseed oil.”
A high-sugar diet
Research suggests that eating a high-sugar diet is linked to raised cholesterol levels, specifically raised LDL, lowered HDL cholesterol, and raised triglycerides.
Dr Lee pointed out: “Adults are recommended to eat no more than 30g of sugar per day (seven sugar lumps).
“Beware of hidden sugars in foods – especially processed foods, sauces, and fizzy drinks.”
If you smoke, you probably already know that this is a habit you need to quit… but did you know it’s bad for your cholesterol?
Smokers are two to four times more likely to have a heart attack than non-smokers.
Dr Lee explained: “Acrolein is a yellow, nasty smelling vapour that is created from burning tobacco and it is just one of 3,000 toxins found in cigarette smoke.
“Experts believe acrolein gets into the smoker’s bloodstream and interferes with the body’s metabolism of cholesterol.
“It is thought to inhibit the enzyme responsible for maintaining LDL cholesterol.
“As a result, there is a build-up of abnormal LDL cholesterol. Acrolein also has a detrimental effect on HDL cholesterol.”
Stress is bad for your mental health, but it’s also bad for your physical health and leads to high cholesterol.
This is because chronic stress leads to activation of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) – the ‘fight fright, and flight’ mechanism that springs into action when your body is in danger.
Dr Lee said: “When stress is persistent over time, levels of adrenaline and cortisol are elevated. This leads to chronic inflammation.
“As a result, levels of LDL cholesterol are raised, and HDL cholesterol is lowered.
“When we are stressed, we also tend to eat more, crave all the wrong foods, drink more alcohol and do less exercise – all of which are risk factors for heart disease.”
Lack of exercise
Lack of physical exercise leads to raised cholesterol – most commonly raised LDL cholesterol.
Exercise is known to lower cholesterol, so it’s time to get off the sofa and work out.
Dr Lee instructed: “Make sure you are getting 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise, as a minimum.”
Too little sleep
If you regularly don’t get enough sleep, you’re risking raising your cholesterol.
In medical studies, those who had less than seven hours of sleep per night were more likely to have lowered HDL cholesterol and raised triglycerides.
Dr Lee said: “A lack of sleep leads to reduced production of the hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin, which also affect your cholesterol metabolism.”
Anyone concerned about their cholesterol should consult a doctor for further advice.
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