High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips
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We need some cholesterol to stay healthy, though there are some forms which are considered bad for us. The British Heart Foundation (BHF) recommends all adults have a cholesterol check at any age, even if they feel completely well. It should be repeated every five years – or more often if the test was abnormal. You may need to lower high levels of cholesterol through making changes to your diet.
The British Dietetic Association (BDA) explains plant stanols and sterols, also known as phytosterols, “are cholesterol-like compounds” that can help lower cholesterol.
The prevention says these are found naturally in a range of plant-based foods including vegetable oils, grain products such as breads and cereals, seeds, nuts, legumes, and fruits and vegetables.
It states: “Along with a healthy diet, eating foods that provide you with around 2g of plant stanols and sterols every day has been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels.”
Moreover, the BDA says: “While taking plant stanols and sterols has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels, there is no evidence to show that they also reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.”
It adds: “You do not need to consume more than the maximum recommended amount. Most studies show that eating more than 3g of plant stanols and sterols is unlikely to lower cholesterol levels further.”
Moreover, it is not essential to take plant sterols and stanols to help manage your cholesterol.
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) says: “A healthy diet only provides a modest intake of sterols and stanols (160–400mg/day). As a result sterols and stanols have been added to certain foods, including margarines, spreads, soft cheeses and yoghurts.”
It explains: “Plant sterols and stanols have a similar chemical structure to cholesterol and are thought to decrease the absorption of cholesterol in our intestine.”
The charity adds: “This reduction in cholesterol absorption increases our liver’s uptake of LDL cholesterol and as a result can reduce our blood LDL cholesterol levels.”
Fortunately, the charity also says they seem to have no effect on the heart-friendly HDL cholesterol levels or triglycerides.
The BHF says the effect varies between individuals, but there is evidence to show that plant sterols and stanols can help to reduce LDL cholesterol by levels up to 10 to 15 percent when 2g/day is regularly consumed as part of a healthy balanced diet.
It adds: “Whilst there is an expectation that their cholesterol lowering effect will lead to fewer heart attacks, there is no evidence to show this. You’ll still need to make changes to your diet and lifestyle to help reduce your cholesterol levels and your overall risk of coronary heart disease.”
Nonetheless, the charity says products with sterol or stanol products are not a replacement for any cholesterol lowering medication.
It advises if you are already taking medication to help lower your cholesterol, you should inform your doctor before you start taking them.
Plant stanols and sterols are not recommended for young children (under five years old), breastfeeding or pregnant women.
Moreover, plant stanols and sterols are not recommended for young children (under five years old), breastfeeding or pregnant women.
If you have been advised to make dietary changes, there are a number of things to consider. The NHS outlines a number of other lifestyle changes you may be able to make to lower your cholesterol.
A key one is to cut down on alcohol. You should try to avoid drinking more than 14 units of alcohol a week, and avoid binge drinking. You can ask your GP for help if you are struggling to cut down.
You might need medicine to lower your cholesterol if your cholesterol level has not gone down after changing your diet and lifestyle.
Statins are the most common medicine for high cholesterol, according to the health service. They work by reducing the amount of cholesterol your body makes.
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