If you're not sure what cholesterol is, then here's a little breakdown. Cholesterol is a waxy fat which is essential for overall health and is needed for every cell in the body. However, too much of it can cause a problem. It is carried around the body by low density lipoprotein (LDL) and high density lipoprotein (HDL). The LDL takes the cholesterol from the liver to the tissues where it is needed but too much LDL can cause the blood vessels to become blocked. The good HDL cholesterol is responsible for picking up the excess cholesterol and taking it back to the liver where it can broken down. In short, we need to get the right balance between the LDL and the HDL.
So, enough of the biology lesson. "Why is it important to keep an eye on choleterol levels?" I hear you scream. Well, raised cholesterol is often caused by an unhealthy diet, sedentary lifestyle, smoking and type 2 diabetes. However, genetics can also play a part in raising cholesterol levels and this is known as polygenic high cholesterol. There are no symptoms for high cholesterol, which is why testing is so important. Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels is key and these ways to lower your cholesterol and keep the levels balanced are sure to help.
1. Grab the Grains
Beta glucan is a form of soluble fibre and it grabs hold of that pesky cholesterol, stopping it from being absorbed. All hail the mighty beta glucan! So how do you get more of this in your diet? Well, oats and barley are a great source. Other soluble fibre rich foods include pulses, beans, legumes, fruits and vegetables. Like we needed reasons to eat more of this good food!
2. Fabulously Fortified Foods
The wonder of science has meant that we can now buy foods which have been fortified with plant sterols or stanols. You can now buy spreads, milks, yoghurts and drinks which are fortified and they can help reduce LDL levels. Obviously, the consumption of these fortified food should be combined with a healthy diet and exercise.
3. Ravishing Red Yeast Rice
Red yeast rice contains the fungus which is used to make cholesterol-lowering statins. Some people don't like taking statins and it has received some negative press. Many argue however, that they're perfectly safe to take. Some people prefer taking red yeast rice to statins but it can be difficult to ensure you're getting enough of the active ingredient.
4. Keep on Moving
We all know how vital it is to get that physical activity in each day but we also know how difficult it can be to do so. There are some simple ways to sneak in that exercise. Take the stairs where possible and walk or cycle where you can. Put some welly into your housework and get away from the office on your lunch break. One of the reasons is that exercise helps increase the good HDL levels but there are so many other benefits for the body and mind.
5. Quit the Cigs
There are so many reasons to quit the cigs. How about quitting for the sake of your cholesterol levels if nothing else. You might be sick of people telling you what to do and you have right to choose whether to light up or not but smoking does produce a chemical that stops the good cholesterol from transporting fatty deposits to the liver. Maybe it's time to quit for good.
6. Shed the Pounds
Carrying extra weight around the tummy is not great for your health. This isn't a vanity thing though. Losing some weight will increase your HDL levels and you need these to keep you healthy. Just another reason to get moving and shed that extra weight.
Studies show that having at least 15g of soya protein a day can help regulate cholesterol levels. So get some soya in your diet to help balance those cholesterol levels.
It is recommended that people between the ages of 40 and 74 should be tested every five years and it just involves a simple blood test. If there is a history of high cholesterol or heart disease in the family then you should be tested whatever your age. Has anyone had high cholesterol and managed to bring it down through some of the ways above? What advice would you give to someone with elevated cholesterol?