7 Ways to Lower your Cholesterol
It is well known that high cholesterol can cause heart disease, but what exactly is cholesterol and why is it a problem if it gets too high?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in blood and it is an essential building block for healthy cells. However, if the level of cholesterol gets too high, fatty deposits can build up on the walls of the arteries. Eventually, the build-up can become large enough that it becomes difficult for your blood to flow through your arteries efficiently. The biggest risk of high cholesterol is that these fatty deposits may break suddenly, and with little warning, causing a heart attack or stroke.
High cholesterol does not have any symptoms, and the condition can only be detected through a blood test. High cholesterol is more common in older people as there is a greater likelihood of your arteries narrowing. (NHS.co.uk, 2018)
While it is possible to have high cholesterol as part of an underlying condition or in your genes, the condition is often the result of unhealthy lifestyle choices such as a poor diet, smoking, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and having a sedentary lifestyle.
How to Lower Cholesterol
As lifestyle choices can contribute to high cholesterol, you can, along with taking prescribed medication, help take control of your condition by making some lasting lifestyle changes.
Lower your Intake of Fatty Foods
Saturated fat has been linked as a contributor to high cholesterol. (NHS.co.uk, 2017) Foods that contain saturated fat include pastries, sausages, fatty cuts of meat, hard cheeses, cream, butter, ghee, lard and anything edible containing coconut or palm oil (that will include shop bought biscuits, cakes and curry sauces).
Trans fat is another fat has been found to raise cholesterol. Trans fat, as well as its artificial cousin hydrogenated fat, is commonly found in processed foods such as cakes, biscuits, ready meals, certain types of margarine and animal fats such as dairy.
You don’t have to give up these foods completely, after all, we all deserve a treat every now and again, but lowering your intake of these foods will help bring down your cholesterol.
Eat Heart-Healthy Foods
Eating heart-healthy foods is not only a great way to help improve your cholesterol levels and heart health, but it can also help you lose weight. Heart-healthy foods are typically low in saturated fat and are an overall better health choice. A heart-healthy diet includes:
- Wholegrain products such as wholegrain bread, pasta, bran, cereals
- Oily fish
- Oils such as olive, sunflower, walnut and rapeseed
- Fruit and vegetables (especially avocados)
- Potatoes with their skins on
- Beans, peas and lentils
- Nuts and seeds
Exercise to Reduce Cholesterol
Our modern lifestyles make it easy to live a sedentary lifestyle, however, being inactive can contribute to high cholesterol and to a whole host of other health issues. Exercising to help to reduce your cholesterol does not mean you have to buy a gym membership, take part in a marathon or become an athlete. Small changes to your lifestyle and moderate physical activity, built into your day, can make a huge difference. Here are some ideas:
- Take a brisk daily walk and plan longer walks on the weekends, if possible
- If you have a dog, consider going for a longer or more challenging walk than usual
- If possible, walk to the shops, especially if you only need to get a handful of items
- Getting off the train or bus a stop earlier
- Sign up to the Couch to 5k programme or join your local Park Run if you want to challenge yourself and meet others in a similar situation to you
- Play a sport and have the added benefit of getting to know more people in your community
- Get on your bike and cycle to work, the shops, out with the family or just enjoy the wind in your hair and the fresh air
- If you like working with your hands, gardening is a great way to get some moderate activity in your life. If you don’t have a garden then take a look at the Conservation Volunteers, this organisation runs 95 green gyms around the country.
Drink Less Alcohol
Excessive alcohol use is a major contributing factor to high cholesterol, however, you do not have to go without alcohol completely to lower your cholesterol. Drinking alcohol in moderation can help to bring your cholesterol levels down, along with exercising and having a healthy diet. (Health.harvard.edu, 2018)
If you are looking to reduce your alcohol intake, sticking to the government's guidelines of 14 units or less a week is a great place to start. 14 units of alcohol are generally the equivalent of six pints of beer, six glasses of wine or 14 glasses of single shot spirits. (drinkaware.co.uk) If using mixers in spirits remember that they can contain high levels of sugars and have more calories than you may think. The UK's chief medical officer also recommends spreading the 14 units over the week and having drink-free days.
Stopping smokingcan help you to lower your cholesterol quickly. After a year of quitting you can cut your risk of heart disease to half that of a smoker. A chemical found in cigarettes, known as acrolein, stops good cholesterol from transporting cholesterol from fatty deposits to the liver, which can lead to your arteries narrowing. There are many free initiatives across the country to help you stop smoking.
One of the best ways to lower cholesterol is to lose weight. We know it’s easier said than done, but if you follow some or all of the above advice such as changing your diet, exercising and reducing your alcohol intake: it is highly likely that you will lose weight.
While positive changes to your lifestyle can be a huge contributor to bringing down high cholesterol, medication can also play an important part. At Instant eCare, we are a fully registered pharmacy, who can help you obtain high cholesterol medication quickly and in a way that is hassle-free. We have branded medications, such as Ezetrol, and statin tables, such as Simvastatin and Atorvastatin.
If you have high cholesterol, get in touch with us. You will be able to speak to one of our GPhC registered prescribers, who will be able to prescribe medicine that treats your condition. Once complete, select your delivery option. It couldn't be any easier!
NHS.co.uk, 2018, Causes of High Cholesterol, [Online]. (Last updated 30 July 2018) Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/high-cholesterol/causes/ [Accessed 23 April 2019]
NHS.co.uk, 2017, How to eat less saturated fat, [Online]. (Last updated 1 June 2017) [Accessed 23 April 2019] Available at:https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/eat-less-saturated-fat/
Drinkaware.co.uk, UK Chief Medical Officers' Low Risk drinking Guidelines [Accessed 23 April 2019] Available at https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/alcohol-facts/alcoholic-drinks-units/alcohol-limits-unit-guidelines/
health.harvard.edu, 2018, Facts about alcohol and heart health , [Online]. (Last updated August 2018) [Accessed 23 April 2019] Available at https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/facts-about-alcohol-and-heart-health