How to lower your cholesterol

Everybody wants a healthy heart, right? One key thing you can do to look after your ticker is make sure your cholesterol isn’t too high.

Cholesterol is a type of fat found in your blood. There are two types of cholesterol – good and bad. If your bad cholesterol is too high, it can build up as plaque in your arteries and cause a heart attack or stroke.

People with high cholesterol usually don’t have any symptoms. The only way to find out if you have high cholesterol is to have a blood test.

If your cholesterol is too high, you may need to take medication to help reduce it. High cholesterol can run in families but is often caused by lifestyle factors such as an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise.

The good news is there are a few simple lifestyle changes you can make to help lower your cholesterol:

1. Get moving

Regular exercise is not only good for your overall health, but it can also reduce high cholesterol. Just 30 minutes or more of exercise on most days of the week will make a difference. You could try running, swimming, joining a gym or taking up a sport. You can also incorporate more movement into your day by doing things like taking the stairs instead of the lift, going for a walk during your lunch break or getting off the bus a stop early.

2. Eat heart-healthy food

Healthy eating can have a hugely positive impact on your cholesterol and the health of your heart. Reduce foods that are high in saturated fats such as red meat and full-fat dairy products. Things like pies, cakes, biscuits, chips and food high in salt are also bad for your cholesterol. Instead, eat more fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains and oily fish.

3. Stop smoking

Smoking is very bad for your heart (and your general health). Smoking makes your bad cholesterol stickier and reduces the amount of good cholesterol, as well as damaging the artery walls.

4. Maintain a healthy weight

Maintaining a healthy weight will help reduce the risk of developing high cholesterol. Regular exercise and eating a healthy, balanced diet will help you achieve this.

5. Cut back on alcohol

Drinking too much alcohol increases your cholesterol. Try cutting back or stopping altogether. You’ll notice a raft of health benefits, plus, you’ll save money.

6. Ditch the fizzy drink

Instead of drinking sugary fizzy drinks, drink water. Sugary drinks contain lots of refined sugar, which is bad for your heart and overall health. Another bonus – tap water is free!

If you would like a cholesterol test or have any questions or concerns about your heart health, please contact your GP or healthcare provider for advice.

References

  1. High cholesterol Mayo Clinic, US
  2. Top 5 lifestyle changes to improve your cholesterol Mayo Clinic, US
  3. Managing high cholesterol Heart Foundation, NZ