High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips
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High cholesterol is when you have too much of a fatty substance called cholesterol in your blood. Over time, a build-up of cholesterol can gum up your arteries, thereby raising your risk of having a heart attack. Most of the time, high cholesterol is only picked up during a blood test, but occasionally perceptible signs can surface.
According to Harvard Health, xanthelasma – soft, cholesterol-filled plaques that develop under the skin – can show up on the face.
“Usually on or around the eyelids and most often near the nose.”
As the health body explains, they occur mainly in middle-aged and older adults — and in women more often than in men.
They can be a sign of hyperlipidemia — high levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, or other lipids (fats) in the blood, it adds.
Since most people do not experience the symptoms associated with high cholesterol, your GP is likely to suggest having a test if they think your cholesterol level could be high, explains the NHS.
“This may be because of your age, weight or another condition you have (like high blood pressure or diabetes).”
There are two ways of having a cholesterol test:
- Taking blood from your arm
- Finger-prick test.
What happens next
If you have high cholesterol, a doctor or nurse will talk to you about how you can lower it.
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How to lower high cholesterol
There are several foods which are not just part of a healthy diet, they can actively help to lower your cholesterol too.
According to cholesterol charity Heart UK, cutting down on saturated fat and replacing some of it with unsaturated fats is a great way to lower your cholesterol.
Saturated fat is the kind of fat found in butter, lard, ghee, fatty meats and cheese.
Foods which contain unsaturated fats include:
- Vegetable oils such as olive, sunflower, corn, rapeseed, nut and seed oils
- Avocado, nuts and seeds
- Fat spreads made from vegetable oils, such as sunflower and olive oil
- Oily fish.
“Oily fish are a good source of healthy unsaturated fats, specifically a type called omega-3 fats,” says Heart UK.
“Aim to eat two portions of fish per week, at least one of which should be oily.”
Following a Mediterranean-style diet can help you to get plenty of unsaturated fat into your diet.
The Mediterranean diet varies by country and region, so it has a range of definitions.
In general, it’s high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil.
Other key tips
In addition to eating well, regular physical exercise can help to lower high cholesterol levels.
Adults are recommended to do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week.
According to the NHS, you can also achieve your weekly activity target with:
- Several short sessions of very vigorous intensity activity
- A mix of moderate, vigorous and very vigorous intensity activity.
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