Do you understand cholesterol?
October is National Cholesterol Month, a campaign spearheaded by the cholesterol charity Heart UK.
The charity has challenged people up and down the country to walk, run, cycle, row or swim 100 miles to raise money and awareness about cholesterol and the dangers of living with high cholesterol.
Even if you aren’t taking part in the challenge itself this month, it’s a great reminder to get to grips with what cholesterol is and why it’s important to keep it in check.
What is cholesterol?
According to Heart UK, cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance that helps form cell membranes, hormones, bile and vitamin D. Though it’s often thought of as bad, cholesterol is actually vital to proper cell function and good health overall. We get it in part from our diet, but it is made mostly in our livers.
Why is high cholesterol bad?
Too much cholesterol in the blood can increase your risk of a range of illness and disease including heart attack, stroke and a narrowing of the arteries.
What causes high cholesterol?
Many people associate high cholesterol with being overweight, but in fact, anyone can have high cholesterol, even if they are slim, physically active, and eat well.
Cholesterol levels are impacted by your lifestyle, but also by your age, family history, and some medicines.
You’re more likely to have high cholesterol if you’re not physically active, drink too much or eat a diet high in saturated fats, smoke, or carry too much weight around your middle.
High cholesterol can also be the result of an inherited condition known as FH (familial hypercholesterolaemia), which causes very high cholesterol even with people who have a healthy diet and lifestyle. An underactive thyroid can also be the cause of high cholesterol.
Improving your cholesterol levels
If you’re worried about your cholesterol levels, there are things you can do to help improve the situation.
- Speak to your GP and ask them to check your cholesterol levels and talk about your risk, particularly if you have a family history or stroke or heart disease.
- Quit smoking
- Take regular physical activity, a good ideal is 150 minutes a week of brisk walking.
- Challenge yourself to eat more meat-free meals
- Monitor your stress levels and take time to relax
- Incorporate cholesterol-lowering foods into your diet, including vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
Have you ever had high cholesterol? Share your experiences in the comments below
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Rachel - Silversurfers Assistant Editor
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