Everybody needs some cholesterol in their body, and the fatty substance is made naturally by the liver, but can also be contained in food. When the cholesterol level gets too high in the bloodstream, it can start to gather on the walls of the arteries, which causes them to narrow, meaning blood can’t be passed around the body as easily.
This increases the risk of blood clots, meaning that you are more likely to suffer from a heart attack or stroke. However, not all cholesterol is bad, in fact, there is a form of good cholesterol (known as high-density lipoprotein, or HDL) that will carry the bad stuff (low-density lipoprotein, or LDL) towards the liver to be destroyed. Studies have found that healthy levels of HDL will prevent LDL from causing a buildup in the arteries (also known as cholesterol plaque).
What Causes High Cholesterol
There are a few reasons you may have raised cholesterol, with the main being a diet rich in saturated fats. Lots of foods contain saturated fats, including meat, dairy products, and sweet treats like cakes and biscuits. Your body already produces cholesterol naturally, so adding more through saturated fats will contribute to the buildup in your arteries.
Another contributing factor is a lack of exercise. When people exercise, it causes the body to use up the fats they have been eating for energy. With little or no exercise, the fats will remain in the body and add to the blood’s level of bad cholesterol.
The reason for high cholesterol could also be hereditary. If there is a history of the condition in your family, it’s more likely that you will experience it yourself. This is due to a defect in the genes, which means the body can’t regulate the cholesterol levels normally, resulting in a condition called familial hypercholesterolemia.
How to Lower Your Cholesterol
Lowering your risk of high cholesterol can mainly be achieved with a healthy lifestyle. By improving your diet, and avoiding foods with high levels of saturated fats, it will reduce the amount of bad cholesterol entering your body and prevent a large buildup in your arteries. Eating the following foods will actively help to reduce your cholesterol levels, and get you on the right track to being healthy:
- Nuts and Seeds
- Oily fish, such as salmon, herring, and mackerel
- Vegetable oils, such as olive and sunflower
- Fruit and vegetables.
- Anything containing oats.
Becoming more active will also help to reduce the amount of cholesterol in your body. When you’re more active, your body will use the fats you consume as energy, meaning there are less in your body. Getting fit also has many other health benefits and will reduce your risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or becoming obese. This doesn’t mean just going to the gym, as there are lots of ways to get fitter, such as taking up a sport, walking, or start riding a bike instead of driving.
If you smoke, then quitting will also help. Smoking damages your arteries, and this means that cholesterol will be able to clog them more easily. Smoking can cause many other problems too, and quitting can dramatically reduce your risk of heart disease and other health issues. Cutting back on your alcohol consumption will also help with many aspects of your health. Your doctor may want to prescribe medication, which are usually statins, and need to be taken alongside your new healthy lifestyle. A more drastic treatment can involve surgery or filtering your blood, but these are not very common procedures.
Cholesterol can be lowered with a healthy lifestyle, and this is entirely in your hands. Follow your doctor’s advice, and you will soon be fitter, healthier, and you’ll feel much better for it.