» Sim­ple steps to cut choles­terol Health & Life­style

Reg­u­lar exercise and healthy food swaps can make a big dif­fer­ence to long-term heart health, a nu­tri­tion­ist tells LIZ CONNOR

Gloucestershire Echo - - NEWS -

RAISED choles­terol af­fects over half of UK adults – and many are com­pletely un­aware of it. While high choles­terol it­self doesn’t usu­ally cause any symp­toms, it’s linked with an in­creased risk of a num­ber of ma­jor dis­eases, in­clud­ing heart dis­ease.

Choles­terol is a waxy sub­stance that’s found nat­u­rally in the blood, and it isn’t al­ways bad news. In fact, we need choles­terol for our bod­ies to func­tion healthily – but there are dif­fer­ent types, and it only be­comes a prob­lem when lev­els of LDL choles­terol are too high.

LDL (low den­sity lipopro­tein) is what’s known as ‘bad’ choles­terol. If there’s too much LDL choles­terol in the body, it can slowly build up and clog in the ar­ter­ies, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for blood to flow.

HDL (high den­sity lipopro­tein) choles­terol, mean­while, is the ‘good’ type. This helps re­move ex­cess choles­terol from the blood­stream and re­turn it to the liver, where it’s bro­ken down and passed out of the body.

Any­one can have high choles­terol, even if you’re young and slim (some­times it’s ge­netic), and it can be di­ag­nosed by your GP with a sim­ple blood test.

If you’re di­ag­nosed with high choles­terol, your GP may pre­scribe medication such as statins, but mak­ing sim­ple life­style changes can help too.

Nu­tri­tion­ist Sarah Fran­ciosi ex­plains: “By tak­ing sim­ple steps to­wards a health­ier diet and life­style, you can help to lower your choles­terol. For ex­am­ple, one of the most com­mon causes of high choles­terol in peo­ple in the UK is eat­ing too much sat­u­rated fat, so it’s a good idea to try and cut that out for bet­ter health.”

With bar­be­cues and boozy pub gar­den af­ter­noons on the hori­zon, here, Sarah of­fers her six top tips for nat­u­rally low­er­ing your choles­terol this sum­mer...

1. STAY AC­TIVE

THROW­ING your­self into a sweaty gym ses­sion af­ter a busy day at the of­fice isn’t just a great tonic for stress, stud­ies have also found that an ac­tive life­style can help lower choles­terol lev­els. Sarah ad­vises: “Reg­u­lar exercise can help to im­prove your ‘good’ HDL choles­terol level. HDL choles­terol helps to re­move ex­cess choles­terol from the blood­stream and re­turns it to the liver where it is bro­ken down and passed out of the body.”

She says you should aim for at least 30 min­utes of mod­er­ate in­ten­sity exercise, such as brisk walk­ing, five times a week or more. “Re­mem­ber, if you have a par­tic­u­lar health con­cern, it is a good idea to talk to a health­care pro­fes­sional be­fore start­ing a new exercise regime,” she adds.

2. SWITCH TO HEALTH­IER COOK­ING METH­ODS

FRY­ING foods is quick and easy but it can de­stroy some of the vi­ta­mins in veg­gies – and if you chuck a knob of but­ter into the pan, this can add to your daily sat­u­rated fat count.

Sarah sug­gests re­assess­ing your cook­ing meth­ods and switch­ing to meth­ods that don’t re­quire lots of but­ter, lard or oil. “Grilling, steam­ing, boil­ing and bak­ing use less fat than fry­ing,” she com­ments. “So you can also cook up a storm with some of your favourite foods while cutting back on sat­u­rated fats.”

3. EAT MORE FRUIT AND VEG

THERE’S no two ways about it – get­ting a good help­ing of fruit and veg in your diet is one of the eas­i­est ways to im­prove your over­all health.

Not only are our colour­ful friends a good source of vi­ta­mins and min­er­als, in­clud­ing fo­late, vi­ta­min C and potas­sium, but many fruit and veg­eta­bles are also packed with di­etary fi­bre, which can help to keep your gut healthy.

“Aim to eat at least five por­tions of fruit and veg­eta­bles a day,” says Sarah.

“This will pro­vide you with fi­bre and a range of vi­ta­mins, while also keep­ing your plate var­ied and colour­ful. Some fruit and veg con­tain sol­u­ble fi­bre which can help lower choles­terol, but oats, beans, peas, lentils and chick­peas con­tain it too, so you can keep it in­ter­est­ing by mix­ing up your plate with lots of dif­fer­ent foods,” she adds.

4. DRINK IN MOD­ER­A­TION

STUD­IES sug­gest that binge-drink­ing fre­quently (where you reg­u­larly drink over the rec­om­mended max­i­mum in­take of units) can put you at higher risk of con­di­tions such as high blood pres­sure and high choles­terol. “The rec­om­mended daily al­co­hol con­sump­tion is no more than two to three units a day for women, and three to four units a day for men,” says Sarah.

If you don’t want to miss out on Fri­day night beers at the pub, she sug­gests putting a limit on your booze in­take and switch­ing to al­co­hol-free tip­ples later in the evening. “Re­mem­ber, one unit of al­co­hol equates to one small glass of wine, half a pint of nor­mal strength lager, cider or beer, or one pub mea­sure of spir­its.”

5. SWAP OUT SAT­U­RATED FATS

SARAH says sat­u­rated fat is found in high-fat dairy foods such as cream, whole milk, hard cheese, but­ter, as well as in fatty cuts of meat and in cakes, bis­cuits and pas­tries.

“Un­sat­u­rated fat is bet­ter for your heart health and is found in a wide range of tasty and ver­sa­tile foods,” she says. “These in­clude oily fish – like salmon, mack­erel and her­ring – nuts, seeds and veg­etable oils, and spreads made from rape­seed and olive oil. This means you can keep your heart happy while still hav­ing a va­ri­ety of foods to choose from.”

6. TRY LOW-CHOLES­TEROL AL­TER­NA­TIVES

GO­ING on a low-choles­terol diet doesn’t mean you have to miss out on some of life’s sim­plest plea­sures – like melted but­ter on a round of toast, or a help­ing of grated cheese on a steam­ing bowl of spaghetti bolog­nese. There are now plenty of low-choles­terol al­ter­na­tives to pop­u­lar foods, such as but­tery spreads, cheese and yo­gurts.

“Benecol has a range of foods that con­tain an in­gre­di­ent called plant stanol ester, that’s been found to lower choles­terol and can help to keep a heart happy diet on track,” says Sarah. “They’re found nat­u­rally in some ed­i­ble plants, but only in tiny amounts. When there are plenty of them though, they work to­gether to re­duce ‘bad’ Ldl-choles­terol.”

If you’re con­cerned about your choles­terol lev­els, speak to your GP, and any­one aged 40-74 can get their choles­terol mea­sured as part of their rou­tine NHS health checks.

In the mean­time, it’s a good idea to adopt healthy habits. “Not only can mak­ing the above changes be ben­e­fi­cial for low­er­ing choles­terol, but they’ll also con­trib­ute to bet­ter over­all health,” says Sarah.

MIND­FUL­NESS is the prac­tice of at­tend­ing to our ex­pe­ri­ence, mo­ment to mo­ment, with­out judge­ment.

It is gen­tly observing the world around us and our own thoughts, feel­ings and sen­sa­tions as they arise in the here and now.

In essence, mind­ful­ness is sim­ply be­ing awake to the present, or the opposite of be­ing on au­topi­lot.

In re­cent years, mind­ful­ness has gained pop­u­lar­ity as an ap­proach that can help with many dif­fer­ent ar­eas of well­be­ing.

Here are three rea­sons to give mind­ful­ness a go, backed by re­cent re­search.

MIND­FUL­NESS CAN HELP TO RE­DUCE STRESS

THROUGH mind­fully observing your mind and body’s re­ac­tion to stress you can learn to take a step back and pause, rather than let­ting panic and anx­i­ety take over.

A method called Mind­ful­ness­based Stress Re­duc­tion (or MBSR) has been shown to help peo­ple re­duce stress and anx­i­ety in a range of clin­i­cal set­tings.

Re­cent stud­ies have also shown that mind­ful­ness is ef­fec­tive at re­duc­ing stress among a di­verse range of peo­ple in­clud­ing teach­ers, stu­dents, preg­nant women and peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enc­ing high lev­els of work stress to name a few.

Try to eat more veg­eta­bles, cut back on al­co­hol and swap your spreads

Do­ing more exercise can help to lower lev­els of ‘bad’ choles­terol

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