High cholesterol is often referred to as a “silent killer” because in most cases there are no obvious signs or symptoms of the condition. 

High cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease including:

  • narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis)
  • heart attack
  • stroke
  • mini-stroke (TIA)

Around 60% of adults in the UK have high cholesterol and it’s a condition which becomes more prevalent as we get older. It’s also more common amongst smokers and people who are overweight or obese.

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is known as a lipid, it is vital for the regular functioning of the body. It is mainly produced by the liver but it can also be found in some foods. If your body is holding an excessive amount of lipids in the blood, this can have an affect on your health. As previously mentioned, high cholesterol usually does not cause any symptoms, however it can increase your risk of some serious health conditions.

Cholesterol is carried throughout your blood by proteins and when the two combine, they are known as lipoproteins. The two main types of lipoproteins are:

1. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) - this is when cholesterol is carried away from the cells and back to the liver, this can then either be broken down or passed out of the body as waste. This is why HDL is referred to as 'good cholesterol' and higher levels are actually better.

2. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) - this is cholesterol that is carried to the cells that need it, however if there is too much cholesterol than the cells require, it can build up in the artery walls. This is when it can lead to disease of the arteries, LDL is therefore known as 'bad cholesterol'.

If you are worried about high cholesterol, speak to your doctor and ask for a test. People over 40 should have their cholesterol tested every 5 years.

What can you do to lower your Cholesterol?

Whether or not you’ve been diagnosed with high cholesterol it’s important to take a proactive approach. Lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise can have dramatic health benefits which can help in the fight against high cholesterol.

1. A Healthy Diet

Eating a healthy balanced diet is one of the first things you can do to reduce your cholesterol.

Limit your cholesterol intake by cutting out saturated fats contained in foods such as fatty meats, full fat dairy products, pastries, puddings and cakes.

Where possible use lower fat equivalents such as vegetable spreads instead of butter, fish or poultry instead of processed meat, skimmed or semi-skimmed milk instead of full fat or cream.

Eat more fruit and vegetables to boost your fibre intake. Make a conscious effort to eat at least 5 portions a day. It’s easier than you think by following these simple tips:

  • Add a small handful of dried fruit or a sliced banana to your morning cereal
  • Have a small glass of fresh fruit juice or a fruit smoothie
  • Have a salad for lunch or cooked vegetables with dinner
  • Add more vegetables to soups, stews and casseroles
  • Try a delicious fruit salad for dessert

Include cholesterol busting superfoods in your diet such as: oats and barley, beans and lentils, blueberries, soya foods, almonds and avocados.

2. Regular Exercise

We all know that regular exercise is good for us and can provide a wide variety of health benefits. Regular physical activity such as brisk walking, jogging, cycling and swimming can help us lose weight, reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of diabetes. It also increases HDL (good cholesterol), which in turn lowers the risk of heart disease.

There’s no need to enter the next Iron Man contest to reap the benefits from increased exercise. Even moderate intensity activities like walking for pleasure, gardening, and housework can help reduce your risk of heart disease. Twenty minutes exercise a day can be enough to gain real health benefits. If you find it difficult to get started try the following suggestions:

  • Walk up the stairs instead of taking the lift
  • Park your car further away from your destination and walk the extra distance
  • Take a walk during your lunch break
  • Get up from your chair for 5 minutes every hour and take a walk round the office
  • Join a team and get involved with others
  • Organise activities with your friends or colleagues for moral support
  • Increase your walking speed

3. Stop Smoking

While it may be easier said than done, stopping smoking is another major factor in the fight against high cholesterol. Smoking is one of the main causes of heart disease and is responsible for a whole host of life threatening illnesses and diseases. Smoking lowers HDL cholesterol levels; increases the build-up of cholesterol inside the arteries; and increases the tendency for blood to clot. The good news is that the risks from smoking start to decline as soon as you stop, so it's never too late to give up.

4. Alcohol Consumption

Moderate consumption of alcohol, like a glass of red wine per day, can help to boost HDL (good cholesterol) levels and lower the risk of heart disease. However, drinking too much alcohol can increase your cholesterol and triglyceride levels and can cause a whole host of other problems including high blood pressure, obesity, alcoholism, stroke and cancer. So, if you drink more than the recommended daily levels of alcohol, then you need to cut down or consider stopping altogether.

Pharmacy Direct GB

If you are seeking professional medical help from a UK online pharmacy, you can contact us for more information. Pharmacy Direct offers a Cholesterol-Lowering Service which includes an online doctor consultation and private prescription. Following your consultation, our doctor may prescribe statins to help lower your cholesterol.