High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips
If someone has high cholesterol it means they have too much of a fatty substance known as cholesterol in their blood.
Over time the fat can build-up in the arteries causing blockages that could result in medical emergencies such as heart attacks and strokes.
But unlike some other medical conditions, having high cholesterol – also known as hypercholesterolemia – can go by unnoticed as it is often symptomless until it causes a serious problem.
According to the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) as many as six in 10 people in England are at risk for this “silent danger”.
“Six out of ten adults in England have high cholesterol, with many completely unaware that they have it,” it said.
“Why? Because high cholesterol typically doesn’t cause any symptoms.
“The only way to know if your blood cholesterol is high is by having regular blood tests.
“This silent danger typically causes emergency events such as strokes or heart attacks – due to plaque build up in your arteries – which is an alarming way to discover you have a problem.”
There are several factors that can cause high cholesterol, with diet being one of them.
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BANT advised on seven types of food that should be avoided if you have or are at risk of high cholesterol.
“Foods which contain cholesterol are those with a higher saturated fat content such as dairy foods, animal fats, fatty meats, baked goods, fried foods, ultra-processed foods and those containing high levels of free sugars which are both easily converted by the body into fat and directly influence endogenous cholesterol production,” it said.
Ultra-processed foods typically have five or more ingredients.
They also contain industrial substances such as preservatives, emulsifiers, sweeteners, and artificial colours and flavours.
Free sugars are sugars that are added to foods or drinks, or sugars that are found in foods and drinks like honey, syrup and fruit juice.
They are known as free sugars because they are not found inside the cells of the food.
Whereas the sugar found in foods and drinks like fruit, vegetables and milk are healthier because they come with extra nutrients, like fibre.
To lower cholesterol the health body recommended the following:
- Optimise intake of healthy fats: polyunsaturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fatty acids Reduce intake of saturated fatty acids and ultra-processed foods
- Reduce intake of free sugars and high glycaemic index carbohydrate foods [foods that cause a rapid increase in blood sugar]
- Optimise intake of high-fibre foods such as whole grains and fibre-rich plant foods
- Regular physical activity
- Adequate hydration.
This is supported by the NHS, which advises cutting down on fatty food and exercising more.
It also urges people to stop smoking and reducing alcohol intake to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of associated complications.
The only way to be certain whether you have high cholesterol is to get tested.
If you think you are at risk for high cholesterol you should ask your GP to get tested.
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