I certainly discovered something new about cholesterol and healthy eating last week during National Cholesterol Week. For example, did you know that cholesterol is needed to manufacture vitamin D and sex hormones? Too much cholesterol, however, can be very damaging to your health and may result in heart disease, stroke and circulatory disease.
Heart UK suggest that by taking bite-size steps everyone can reduce their cholesterol without greatly altering their lifestyle. I took this to mean more bites of the fruit that has now made a welcome appearance on my desk and less bites of the pastries from the shop downstairs…
Simple steps to reduce your cholesterol include
- Thirty minutes of exercise a day such as walking, gardening, cycling or swimming
- Quitting smoking
- Reducing alcohol intake
- Keeping an eye on your weight
- Reducing intake of foods with saturated fats such as cheese, butter, fatty meat as well as processed foods such as pies and cakes
- Eating a diet rich in fruit, vegetables and wholegrain cereals
- Eating foods which can lower cholesterol such as oats, nuts and pulses
If you are concerned about your cholesterol, or are in a high risk group due to factors such as a family history of heart disease, you can visit your doctor who will be able to test your cholesterol levels. The government recommends that cholesterol levels should be less than 5mmol/L, which is all well and good for medical professionals but what does that really mean? Dr Hervey Wilcox from the Epsom & St Helier Hospitals NHS Trust has provided a helpful explanation of pathology reports and what they really mean. Patients with a family history of early heart disease or stroke may be encouraged to reduce their cholesterol levels even further, which is where drug treatments can come into play.
Statins are the most common type of cholesterol-reducing drug prescribed by doctors and are generally free of side effects. Statins help to slow down the production of cholesterol in the liver which will prevent atheroma deposits (fatty accumulations) building up on the walls of the arteries. When the coronary arteries become too narrow the amount of blood reaching your heart is reduced leading to coronary heart disease and heart attack.
Doctors will prescribe statins when a patient is thought to be at a high risk of heart disease. Whilst some people may experience stomach upsets through taking statins these will often resolve themselves and, through moderating diet and exercise, it may be possible to stop taking statins on the doctor’s advice.
The key message remains, that those with a healthier lifestyle are less likely to have a cholesterol problem and are therefore less likely to experience coronary heart disease and its associated complaints. Use today as a starting point to a healthier lifestyle and join me in waving goodbye to the cake shop and hello to the greengrocer’s.