Having a healthy heart is vital for your health. Unfortunately, two in three people in the UK have raised cholesterol, which can result in serious heart problems.
In fact, raised cholesterol is the single biggest modifiable risk factor for the UK’s leading killer, coronary heart disease. It also increases the risk of stroke, angina and other circulatory diseases.
But by making positive lifestyle choices, you can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that our body produces - but it can also be found in certain foods.
It plays an important role in how each cell in our body works. It’s also needed to make Vitamin D and hormones and it helps with digestion.
But too much cholesterol in the blood can increase your risk of getting heart and circulatory disease.
Where does cholesterol come from?
Our liver makes most of the cholesterol in our body, but we get some from our diet as well.
Understanding good vs. bad cholesterol
Cholesterol is carried in the blood attached to proteins called lipoproteins. There are two main types: LDL (low density lipoprotein) and HDL (high density lipoprotein).
LDL cholesterol is typically called the ‘bad cholesterol’ because having too much in your system can have adverse affects on your health.
HDL is often referred to as ‘good cholesterol’ because it is takes excess cholesterol in your blood and delivers it to your liver, where it can be broken down.
It’s important to have a high HDL cholesterol and a low LDL cholesterol.
Knowing your levels of these two types of cholesterol is a good way of indicating your potential risk of heart disease.
Your doctor should be able to tell you your levels of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cholesterol.
What can you do if you have raised cholesterol?
If your cholesterol level is high, you can start to lower it by eating a healthy diet and being more active.
There are some simple swaps you can make in your diet to help you reduce your cholesterol levels.
For example, try replacing:
- Butter on bread and sandwiches with spreads made of olive or sunflower oils
- Butter and ghee in cooking with modest amounts of vegetable oils
- Fatty meat, sausages, burgers and other meat products with modest portions of lean meat, skinless chicken and fish
- Snacks such as pastries, chocolate, cakes and biscuits with nuts, dried and fresh fruit
- Full cream milk and yoghurts with low fat milk and yoghurts
- Cheese with lower fat cheese or smaller portions of full fat varieties
- Cream soups and sauces with vegetable soups and tomato based sauces
If you need some inspiration for healthier treats, take a look at our collection of heart-healthy recipes.
You can also help support HEART UK - The Cholesterol Charity - by hosting your own Hearty Tea Party.
Get friends, family and work colleagues together to help spread awareness about the dangers of raised cholesterol while helping to raise funds for a worthy cause.
Call HEART UK on 01628 777046 for your HEARTY Tea Party pack. You can also find out more about Hearty Tea Parties at www.heartuk.org.uk/heartyteaparty
For more information about lowering your cholesterol, visit HEART UK.