Cholesterol is one of the fats (lipids) present in the body. It is essential for life and is carried around the body by the blood. Some cholesterol comes directly from food and some is made by your liver. High blood cholesterol is usually due to eating too much fat but occasionally high cholesterol runs in the family and in these circumstances, it is the body not coping well with normal amounts of fat being eaten.
Eating saturated fats (mainly animal fats) encourages your body to produce more cholesterol. If you have high blood cholesterol, whatever the cause, it is possible to do something about it and reduce your risk of developing health problems especially heart disease.
In the UK, the average total cholesterol is 5.7 – 5.9 mmol/l.
The levels of total cholesterol fall into the following categories
- Ideal level: less than 5 mmol
- Mildly high: 5 – 6.4mmol
- Moderately high: 6.5 – 7.8mmol
- High: above 7.8mmol
High blood cholesterol is only one of several things that contribute to heart disease. Other things that contribute to your chance of developing heart disease are called “risk factors” and include;
- High blood pressure
- Obesity (being overweight)
- Lack of exercise
So it is important to identify and reduce or control as many of your risk factors as possible. For people with no known risk factors and no family history slightly higher cholesterol levels probably don’t result in significantly increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Smoking is one of the greatest risk factors. The chemicals in the cigarettes are carried in the bloodstream, increasing the development of fatty deposits, which can block the blood vessels and cause heart disease. If you smoke and wish to quit, please make an appointment with one of our practice nurses.
Eating tips to lower cholesterol
Eat the following foods regularly
- Wholemeal flour/bread, Porridge Oats, High fibre breakfast cereals, Wholegrain rice and pasta
- All fresh / frozen vegetables and fruit
- White fish and oily fish e.g.; herrings/tuna/mackerel
- Lean meat (preferably white) e.g.; chicken/turkey/game
- Skimmed/semi-skimmed milk, cottage cheese, low fat yoghurts, egg whites
Eat the following foods in moderation
- White flour/bread, White rice and pasta, Plain biscuits, Plain or fruit scones, Low fibre breakfast cereals
- Oven chips, Almonds, Pecans, Hazlenuts, Avocado pear
- Red meats e.g. Beef, ham, lamb, mince
- Edam/Camembert/Parmesan cheese, 2 egg yolks/week
- Low fat spreads, Corn/Sunflower/olive oil
- Meat and fish pastes
- Packet soups and ALCOHOL !!!
Foods to be eaten rarely or avoided
- Croissants, cream cakes, most cakes and sweet biscuits, pastry, suet
- Chips, fried or roast potatoes, crisps and potato snack foods, peanuts, brazils and coconut
- Visible fat on meat, crackling, sausages, pate, duck, goose and meat pies/pasties
- Butter, dripping, lard, mayonnaise, peanut butter, lemon curd, fudge, chocolate, cream soups
People who exercise regularly reduce their chances of developing illnesses such as heart disease. No matter how old, it is never too late to start. Any exercise is good but vigorous exercise like swimming or jogging gives most benefit. However some medical conditions may mean exercise cannot be done but for most people exercise is advised.