High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips
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Cholesterol is a crucial building block for healthy cells. However, you can have too much of a good thing. High cholesterol levels can cause your arteries to narrow – a process known as atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis is the buildup of fats, cholesterol and other substances in and on your artery walls.
“This buildup is called plaque. The plaque can cause your arteries to narrow, blocking blood flow. The plaque can also burst, leading to a blood clot,” explains the Mayo Clinic.
According to the health body, you usually won’t have atherosclerosis symptoms until an artery is so narrowed or clogged that it can’t supply enough blood to your organs and tissues.
If you experience “sudden numbness or weakness” in your arms or legs, it can signal you have atherosclerosis in the arteries leading to your brain, it warns.
Other signs of atherosclerosis in the arteries leading to your brain include:
- Difficulty speaking
- Slurred speech
- Temporary loss of vision in one eye
- Drooping muscles in your face.
How to reduce your risk of atherosclerosis
To ward off the threat of atherosclerosis, it’s vital to keep cholesterol levels in check.
Firstly, you should get tested for high cholesterol. As the NHS explains, high cholesterol does not cause symptoms.
You can only find out if you have it from a blood test.
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“Your GP might suggest having a test if they think your cholesterol level could be high,” explains the NHS.
The health body continues: “This may be because of your age, weight or another condition you have (like high blood pressure or diabetes).”
It says to ask your GP surgery for a cholesterol test if you have not had a test before and you’re over 40, overweight, have high cholesterol or heart problems run in your family.
“If you have high cholesterol, a doctor or nurse will talk to you about how you can lower it.”
Changing your diet can deal a decisive blow to high cholesterol levels.
There are several foods which are not just part of a healthy diet, they can actively help to lower your cholesterol too.
According to cholesterol charity Heart UK, cutting down on saturated fat and replacing some of it with unsaturated fats is a great way to lower your cholesterol.
Foods contain unsaturated fat include:
- Vegetable oils such as olive, sunflower, corn, rapeseed, nut and Seed oils
- Avocado, nuts and seeds
- Fat spreads made from vegetable oils, such as sunflower and olive Oil
- Oily fish.
“Oily fish are a good source of healthy unsaturated fats, specifically a type called omega-3 fats,” adds Heart UK.
UK health guidelines also advise doing at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of exercise a week.
Some good things to try when starting out include:
- Walking – try to walk fast enough so your heart starts beating faster
“Try a few different exercises to find something you like doing. You’re more likely to keep doing it if you enjoy it,” adds the NHS.
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