High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips
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A lot of people in the UK have high cholesterol, which can carry with it a number of health issues. It is often caused by eating fatty food or being overweight, and occurs when you have too much of a fatty substance called cholesterol in your blood. The British Heart Foundation (BHF) says high cholesterol could be caused by things we can control like lifestyle habits, or things we can’t like age and family history. The organisation explains: “Keeping on top of the things you can control with simple changes can help to lower your risk of heart and circulatory disease.”
Heart UK explains fibre is a type of carbohydrate and comes from plants. Unlike other carbohydrates (sugar and starch), it is not digested and absorbed in the small intestines.
It adds: “Instead, it passes undigested into the large bowel where it’s completely or partially broken down by the bacteria that naturally live there.”The organisation says fibre may also be a marker for an overall healthy diet.
If your diet contains a lot of fibre, it’s likely that you’re eating lots of plant foods which contain other important nutrients for heart health, such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and plant compounds.
It suggests people gradually build up how much fibre you eat, as eating too much too soon may make you feel uncomfortable. It is also a good idea to drink more water when you start eating more fibre, it adds.
The BHF says eating high-fibre food can also help to lower your cholesterol. It explains: “Fibre helps reduce the amount of cholesterol that is absorbed into the bloodstream from your intestine.”
The charity says people should make sure you get at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day as these contain fibre along with other nutrients.
It adds: “Eat plenty of other high fibre foods like pulses (such as lentils, beans and chickpeas), oats and seeds.”
The Mayo Clinic says: “Soluble fibre can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream.”
It adds: “Five to 10 grams or more of soluble fibre a day decreases your LDL cholesterol. One serving of a breakfast cereal with oatmeal or oat bran provides 3 to 4 grams of fibre.”
Heart UK says fibre can help you to feel full, which helps prevent overeating.
This can help you maintain a healthy weight, which is good for blood pressure, blood sugar control and cholesterol management.
It states: “Some types of fibre provide food for ‘friendly’ gut bacteria. This encourages the bacteria to thrive and produce substances which are thought to be protective for heart health. These can have a number of benefits such as helping to lower cholesterol.”
The recommended amount of fibre in the UK is 30g a day for adults, but most of us don’t eat this much, it says.
The Mayo Clinic says the same heart-healthy lifestyle changes that can lower your cholesterol can help prevent you from having high cholesterol in the first place.
Therefore, it says that to help prevent high cholesterol, you can eat a low-salt diet that emphasises fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
The NHS outlines a number of other lifestyle changes you may be able to make to lower your cholesterol.A key one is to cut down on alcohol.
You should try to avoid drinking more than 14 units of alcohol a week, and avoid binge drinking. You can ask your GP for help if you are struggling to cut down.
You might need medicine to lower your cholesterol if your cholesterol level has not gone down after changing your diet and lifestyle.
If you’re aged 40 to 74, you can get your cholesterol checked as part of an NHS Health Check.
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) recommends all adults have a cholesterol check at any age, even if they feel completely well.
It should be repeated every five years – or more often if the test was abnormal.
The cholesterol blood test measures your levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and your total cholesterol to HDL ratio.
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