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Cholesterol is a fatty substance in the blood, and too much cholesterol can block blood vessels. In some cases, high cholesterol is inherited. But it is mainly caused by lifestyle factors like being overweight, not exercising enough, eating fatty food, smoking and drinking alcohol. High cholesterol can result in heart problems or stroke, so it is vitally important to take steps to lower high cholesterol.
What foods should you eat and avoid to lower cholesterol?
A doctor should advise people with high cholesterol about the best course of treatment.
But often, people with high cholesterol will be asked to make some changes to their diet and lifestyle to help lower their cholesterol.
Usually, people with high cholesterol will be informed to eat less fatty food, particularly foods that contain saturated fat.
Foods that contain saturated fat can raise the level of cholesterol in the blood, while foods that contain unsaturated fat can help reduce cholesterol levels.
According to the NHS website, people with high cholesterol should try to eat less of the following foods which are high in saturated fat:
- meat pies, sausages and fatty meat
- butter, lard and ghee
- cream and hard cheese, like cheddar
- cakes and biscuits
- food that contains coconut oil or palm oil
Instead, people with high cholesterol should try to eat more of the following foods which are high in unsaturated fat:
- oily fish, like mackerel and salmon
- brown rice, bread and pasta
- nuts and seeds
- fruits and vegetables
There are some simple swaps that people can make to replace foods high in saturated fats in favour of foods that contain more unsaturated fat.
As charity Heart UK explains on its website, things like butter, hard kinds of margarine, coconut or palm oil, can be replaced with oils made from vegetables and seeds such as olive, rapeseed, sunflower and soya oil, and fat spreads made from these.
Fatty and processed meats, like sausages and salami, can be replaced with lean meat like turkey and chicken with the skin off, white fish or oily fish at least once a week.
Heart UK adds: “Have meat-free days – try dishes based on beans, pulses, Quorn, tofu, nuts or soya meat alternatives.”
One of the best ways to check whether foods are high in saturated fat is to check the label on foods.
More information on eating to lower cholesterol can be found on the Heart UK website HERE.
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What other ways can you reduce high cholesterol?
As well as diet, there are some other lifestyle changes people with high cholesterol can make to improve their condition.
According to the NHS website, exercising more, stopping smoking and cutting down on alcohol consumption can all help to lower cholesterol.
Some people will also be prescribed medicine by a health professional to help with high cholesterol.
High cholesterol does not cause symptoms, and it is often diagnosed through a blood test.
Anyone should ask their GP for a cholesterol test if they have not had a test before and they are over 40, overweight, or high cholesterol or heart problems run in their family.
If someone has got high cholesterol and is concerned about it, they should speak to their GP.
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