High cholesterol is when a person has too much cholesterol (a fatty substance) in the blood. Some cholesterol is considered good – HDL cholesterol makes a person less likely to have heart problems or a stroke. But LDL cholesterol, also referred to as ‘bad’ cholesterol, can increase a person’s risk of heart problems and stroke. High levels of bad cholesterol is mainly caused by eating fatty food and not exercising enough, alongside being overweight, smoking and drinking alcohol. This can block blood vessels making a person more likely to have heart problems or a stroke.
So what can you do to lower it? Dr Andrew Thornber, chief medical officer at Now patient, advised Express.co.uk what to eat, the best type of exercise to do, and why you shouldn’t have to take supplements.
He explained: “Eating the correct foods and exercising for the recommended time per week should help lower and manage your cholesterol without taking any supplements.”
When it comes to the best exercise to lower cholesterol, Dr Thornber said: “Any exercise really helps to maintain a healthier lifestyle and reducing cholesterol levels.
“Exercise helps to lower your blood pressure, raises your HDL cholesterol levels, lowers your LDL cholesterol, helps to lose fat from around your middle, which is important for heart health, and prevents against diabetes and other health related conditions.
“It depends on your general fitness level, but doing anything from a brisk walk and dancing to a sprint or a spin class can help.
“Doing 150 minutes of moderate (breaking into a sweat) aerobic activity every week can improve your cholesterol levels.
“Lifestyle options, like taking the stairs instead of the lift and walking instead of driving, can all help.”
When it comes to the best foods to eat to lower cholesterol, Dr Thornber recommends seven.
- Soya – Dr Thornber said: “Soya is a fantastic option, as it is low in fat and packed with protein, vitamins and minerals. Opt for soya yoghurts, milk and meat alternatives.”
- Oats and barley – Dr Thornber said: “These are rich in a type of fibre called beta gluten which can help lower your cholesterol.”
- All nuts and seeds – Dr Thornber said: “These are rich in protein, vitamin E, magnesium and potassium and contain natural plant sterols and other plant nutrients which help keep your body healthy and stave off disease.”
- Oily fish like mackerel
- Vegetable oils and spreads, such as rapeseed or vegetable oil, sunflower, olive and corn and walnut oils
Your GP may prescribe statins if a person’s been diagnosed with heart or a cardiovascular disease.
Dr Thornber added: “Products like Benecol (yoghurt drinks) contain plant sterols which help to reduce cholesterol.”
So how can you tell if you have high cholesterol?
A person with high cholesterol doesn’t usually show any symptoms – most people find out via a blood test.
The NHS explains there are two ways of having this test, either by taking blood from the arm or a finger prick test.
Your GP may suggest having a test if they think your cholesterol level could be high.