Cholesterol is a big issue in the public mind at the moment, it can sometimes feel a bit like an unknown ‘thing’ that is suddenly and rather unexpectedly causing health problems and even premature death. But what is it and what can be done about it?
- What Is It?
Cholesterol is actually something naturally found in your body, it surrounds your cells, insulates nerve fibres and even helps to make hormones. The real problem is that when we consume too much of the wrong things our liver actually starts to turn certain fats into cholesterol.
- How To Lower Your Cholesterol
There are certain drugs that are designed to lower cholesterol (such as ‘statins’) but these almost invariably have side effects and health risks of their own, so really the best option is to lower your cholesterol naturally. Here’s how:
- Eat The Right Fats
Monounsaturated fats are good – almonds for instance boost HDL levels in your body which in turn helps reduce cholesterol. Omega 3 fatty acids are also important, foods such as flaxseeds are a great source of this, but supplements can help too.
- Low GI Carbs
Avoid things like pasta and bread – these tend to lower HDL levels. Try to eat more protein, wholemeal bread and beans to reverse this effect.
This goes without saying really doesn’t it? Even 30 minutes of moderate exercise can make all the difference, if you are not in great shape this is the single biggest change you could make and just 30 minutes a week is better than nothing.
- Lose Weight
There are plenty of reasons to lose weight, but this is yet another – being overweight raises your cholesterol levels which will shorten your life, what more reason do you need?
- Get Tested
If you are over about the age of 35-40 it is well worth getting tested once in a while. If you find you have high cholesterol then you should start making changes and get retested frequently to make sure that what you are doing is working.
- Chill Out
Stress actually raises cholesterol, in particular staying calm in high stress situations is linked to lower cholesterol levels – so there’s another great reason to relax and remain calm.
Eating lots of fibre is good for digestion, good for weight loss and also raises your HDL levels, resulting in lower cholesterol. Start the day with a bowl of porridge and you’ll feel fuller, lose weight and be healthier too.
- Quit Smoking
If you haven’t already given up for all of the other countless health benefits then I don’t suppose this is going to tip the balance, but it would be remiss of me not to mention that on top of all the cancer risks, breathing problems and costs, smoking also lowers HDL and raises cholesterol.