What is Cholesterol?


Cholesterol is a fatty substance known as lipid which is important for the body to function properly. It is made by the body in the liver and we also get it from some food types. Cholesterol  is carried in the blood by proteins and when the lipids and protein combine, they become lipoproteins. Cholesterol is measured in High Density Lipoproteins or, HDL and Low density Lipoproteins or LDL

HDL carry cholesterol away from cells back to the liver where it’s either broken down or we get rid of it, these are the good guys and I like to think of them as Healthy Delicious Lumps!

LDL carry cholesterol to cells that need it but, if there is too much for the cells to cope with it can build up in the artery walls and increases the risk of developing artery disease which can lead to heart disease, stroke or peripheral arterial disease (PAD). For this reason I call them Little Devil Lumps…

What causes high cholesterol?

High cholesterol, AKA Hypercholesterolemia (great word for scrabble!) is when there is too much LDL cholesterol in the blood. There are several reasons; some we are in control of, others we’re not, but, changing our diet and lifestyles can have a really positive effect on lowering LDL and increasing HDL levels.

Consider your diet

  • Cut down on saturated fat: This is found in meat, sausages, pies, butter, ghee, cream, crème freche, ice cream, hard cheese, cakes, biscuits, milk chocolate, coconut oil, coconut cream and palm oil. As a guide an average man should limit saturated fat to 30g a day and women 20g.
  • Eat more fruit and veg; try to aim for five day.
  • Reduce the amount of sugar in your diet, cut down on sweets,  fizzy drinks, biscuits etc
  • Eat more Omega-3 fatty acids, try to eat two portions of oily fish a week such as salmon, sardines and mackerel as this can help lower cholesterol
  • Do cholesterol lowering margarines work? Margarine is still saturated ad trans fats, as is butter, your best bet is to ditch them both and opt for olive oil.
Foods to eat Foods to void
·         Fruit and veg


·         Nuts and seeds ,almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pine nuts, sesame seeds and cashews

·         Oily fish

·         Beans and lentils (kidney beans)

·         Olive oil and rapeseed oil

·         Porridge

·         Fatty and/ or processed meat


·         Dairy products (butter, cheese, cream)

·         Lard, suet

·         Palm or coconut oil

·         Biscuits and cakes


A handy app to use is the Change 4 Life food scanner. You simply scan the food label of a product and it will show you how much saturated fat, sugar and salt it contains. An easy to understand traffic light system will show you what foods to avoid and which are the healthier options!

  • Stop Smoking: There is a chemical in cigarettes the stops the HDL cholesterol transporting the fatty deposits back to the liver, this increases the cholesterol levels in the blood and can result in the arteries becoming narrow or blocked, a real risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
  • Keep alcohol within healthy guidelines. Alcohol intake raises HDL levels but doesn’t lower LDL levels, but, before you all reach for the wine glass too much alcohol can be bad for our health! 

Be more active!

Regular physical activity increases HDL cholesterol by stimulating the body to move fatty deposits to the liver so that they can be broken down. It also helps to lose weight or to keep weight at a healthy level which reduces the mound of LDL in the blood. Exercise also helps to keep blood pressure to a healthy level which means that our blood vessels are in good shape

The Government guidelines for physical activity to improve our health is 150 minutes a week which is 30 minutes a day, five days a week, this can be split into 10 minute bouts throughout the day to make it easier. Try and be more energetic  in your daily activities such as gardening, house work and DIY. Choose something that you enjoy, it could be walking, swimming, dancing, the gym, cycling, whatever it is, if you enjoy it you are more likely to keep doing it! If you have no other medical conditions the guidelines for people with high cholesterol are the same as for the rest of the population. 

How do I know if I’ve got high cholesterol?

High cholesterol increases with age; 30% of 16-24 year olds compared to 76% of 45-54 year olds are diagnosed. It  isn’t apparent that you may have this  in that there are specific symptoms, sometimes it is picked up when there are other medical problems diagnosed, such as heart disease or stroke during a routine blood test.

It  is recommended that you have a  blood test, as caught early lifestyle changes can be made which will prevent the condition from developing into potential life-threatening conditions  and the need for medication. This can be booked easily with your GP, Nurse or Pharmacist.

A simple blood test can rally save your life, so make that appointment today!

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