5 ways to lower your risk of high cholesterol

Keep your heart healthy this winter – whatever your age.

Cholesterol it turns out is not something you just have to start worrying about as you hit middle-age. According to scientists in a study published in the Lancet, it should be measured as early as the age of 25 to help young people mitigate against the risk of cardiovascular issues.

Cholesterol – a type of fat in the blood that can cause serious health problems if there’s too much of it in the body – can raise the risk for heart disease and stroke.

Fortunately though, there are steps you can take to lower your levels of bad cholesterol. Here’s how…

1. Look at your diet

Staying healthy starts with what you put on your plate. “Diet is a big contributor of high cholesterol, and saturated fat is the worst culprit for causing levels to rise,” says Dr Andrew Thornber, chief medical officer at Now Patient. “It can be found in high-fat dairy foods (such as cream, whole milk, hard cheese, butter), in fatty cuts of meat and in cakes and pastries.”

Thornber says that if you’re concerned about your cholesterol, you should look at your diet (and speak to your GP) and approach these foods with particular moderation.

2. Eat lots of colours

Speaking of diet, Thornber says: “Make sure you plate is an abundance of colour. That means you should try and increase your intake of fruit and veg – it will provide you with lots of vitamins and fibre, including soluble fibre – which can help lower cholesterol.” He says foods such as lentils, chickpeas, oats and beans are good sources.

“At least five a day (400g) of a mixture of different coloured fruits and vegetables is important,” agrees LloydsPharmacy pharmacist Anshu Kaura. “A high intake of fruit and veg has been associated with a lower incidence of heart disease, elevated cholesterol levels, blood pressure and obesity.”

3. Think about how you cook

Regularly frying your dinner? It might be time to put away the frying pan. Boiling, poaching or steaming are “much healthier ways of cooking,” says Thornber. He adds: “Also avoid using butter to cook and use healthy heart alternatives such as olive, rapeseed and sunflower oils.”

4. Choose wholegrain

Thornber says making the switch to wholegrain when it comes to foods like bread, rice and pasta, is a much healthier option for your heart and can help lower your cholesterol in the long-run.

5.  Cut back on booze

“Alcohol may raise HDL ‘good cholesterol’ levels in those who drink small amounts, but remember it’s also full of empty calories,” says Kaura.

She explains that alcohol is a common contributor to weight gain, which is one of the biggest risk factors for high cholesterol.

“If you don’t want to give up alcohol entirely, it is best to stick within the guidelines of no more than two to three units of alcohol a day, with at least two alcohol-free days a week,” she notes.

It’s a good idea to keep cigarettes in check too. “Smoking has a significant impact on cholesterol levels, so try and quit or cut down,” says Thornber.

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