High blood cholesterol affects about 50% of Men and Women in Australia. Total blood cholesterol levels above 5.5 mmol/L are an indication of a greatly increased risk of developing coronary heart disease. Levels above 6.5 mmol/L indicate extremely high risk.
Cholesterol is found in many foods we eat. However it is the saturated fat in foods that have the most significant effect on blood cholesterol levels. Saturated fat is found in animal product such as fatty cuts of meat, full fat dairy and butter. The higher your blood cholesterol levels, the higher your risk of heart disease due to the clogging of arteries caused by a build up of bad cholesterol in the blood. This ‘clogging’ may eventually prevent the blood from getting to parts of your heart or brain, resulting in a heart attack or stroke.
Subsequently there are many ways in which you can reduce your cholesterol levels:
1. Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. Weight loss will help you to reduce your blood cholesterol to a healthy level.
2. Choose polyunsaturated or monounsaturated oils such as olive oil over saturated fats such as butter.
3. Fill up on high fibre foods such as wholegrain bread and cereals, brown rice, wholemeal pasta, vegetables, fruits, legumes (e.g. chick peas, kidney beans and lentils) as these are high in fibre which helps to promote a healthy digestive system.
4. Include lean meats and poultry, oily fish and low fat dairy products for protein that will keep you fuller for longer without the added saturated fat. Avoid sausages, bacon, deli meats and full fat dairy to reduce your saturated fat take.
5. Quit smoking as this can lower your blood cholesterol levels.
6. Limit alcohol intake to no more than 2 standard drinks per day for men and women. Alcohol intake above this level increases your cholesterol levels and impacts the health of your liver which helps to break down cholesterol.
7. Get at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most, if not all, days of the week as this increases your HDL cholesterol level (the good type) which can counteract the LDL cholesterol (the bad type).
Heightened cholesterol levels may be due to heredity, however modifying your diet and lifestyle can help to reduce your cholesterol levels and decrease your risk of developing heart disease.