How lifestyle changes can lower your cholesterol
Cholesterol is a fatty substance known as a lipid and is vital for the normal functioning of the body. It’s mainly made by the liver but can also be found in some foods.
Having an excessively high level of lipids in your blood (hyperlipidemia) can have an effect on your health.
High cholesterol itself doesn’t usually cause any symptoms but it increases your risk of serious health conditions.
The amount of cholesterol in the blood – both HDL and LDL – can be measured with a blood test.
The recommended cholesterol levels in the blood vary between those with a higher or lower risk of developing arterial disease.
Why should I lower my cholesterol?
Evidence strongly indicates that high cholesterol can increase the risk of narrowing of the arteries (athe-rosclerosis), heart attack, stroke, transient ischaemic attack (TIA) – often known as a “mini stroke” and/or peripheral arterial disease (PAD).
This is because cholesterol can build up in the artery wall, restricting the blood flow to your heart, brain and the rest of your body. It also increases the risk of a blood clot developing somewhere in your body.
Your risk of developing coronary heart disease also rises as your blood’s cholesterol level increases. This can cause pain in your chest or arm during stress or physical activity (angina).
The first step in reducing your cholesterol is to maintain a healthy, balanced diet. It’s important to keep your diet low in fatty food.
You can swap food containing saturated fat for fruit, vegetables and wholegrain cereals. This will also help prevent high cholesterol returning.
Other lifestyle changes, such as taking regular exercise and giving up smoking (if you smoke), can also make a big difference in helping to lower your cholesterol.
If these measures don’t reduce your cholesterol and you continue to have a high risk of developing heart disease, your GP may prescribe a cholesterol-lowering medication, such as statins.
Your GP will take into account the risk of any side effects from statins, and the benefit of lowering your cholesterol must outweigh any risks.