High cholesterol: The food and drink to ‘limit’ or ‘avoid’ – should you cut down?

Dr Chris reveals how eyes can indicate high cholesterol levels

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Fortunately, many people can lower their cholesterol by eating healthily, and making lifestyle changes. We need some cholesterol to stay healthy, though there are some forms which are considered bad for us. More than two in five people in England have high cholesterol which puts them at significant risk of developing heart disease, according to NHS figures.

High cholesterol does not tend to cause symptoms, so you can only find out if you have it from a blood test.

If you have been advised to make dietary changes, there are a number of things to consider

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that “by living a healthy lifestyle, you can help keep your cholesterol in a healthy range and lower your risk of heart disease and stroke”.

It explains: “Your body makes all of the cholesterol it needs, so you do not need to obtain cholesterol through foods.

“Eating lots of foods high in saturated fat and trans fat may contribute to high cholesterol and related conditions, such as heart disease.”

It suggests that you “limit” foods high in saturated fat and instead choose foods that are low in saturated fat, trans fat and sodium.

The organisation states: “Too much alcohol can raise cholesterol levels and the levels of triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood.”

It adds: “Avoid drinking too much alcohol. Men should have no more than two drinks per day, and women should have no more than one”.

It says people should eat foods naturally high in fibre, such as oatmeal and beans.

The NHS says: “To reduce your cholesterol, try to cut down on fatty food, especially food that contains a type of fat called saturated fat.

“You can still have foods that contain a healthier type of fat called unsaturated fat.”

Indeed, the British Dietetic Association has outlined “a few small changes to your diet” which it says “can make a big difference to your cholesterol.

You might need medicine to lower your cholesterol if your cholesterol level has not gone down after changing your diet and lifestyle.

You may also need medicine if you’re at a high risk of having a heart attack or stroke, according to the NHS.

Statins are the most common medicine for high cholesterol, according to the health service.

Statins work by reducing the amount of cholesterol your body makes.

The NHS says that there are five types of statin available on prescription in the UK. They include atorvastatin, fluvastatin pravastatin, rosuvastatin and simvastatin.

It notes that a review of scientific studies into the effectiveness of statins found around one in every 50 people who take the medicine for five years will avoid a serious event, such as a heart attack or stroke, as a result.

The NHS recommends maintaining cholesterol levels below 5mmol/L.

In the UK, however, three out of five adults have a total cholesterol of 5mmol/L or above, and the average cholesterol level is about 5.7mmol/L, which can be a risk factor in heart disease.

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