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What we have to say about your health and well being
Oct 2014
So you want to reduce your blood cholesterol?
First of all, what is cholesterol and why is it important? Well, cholesterol is a fat in the blood that is needed for all the cells in the body so we can’t do without it but problems can start when these levels rise due to how we live, or in rare cases due to genetic factors.Cholesterol is carried in the blood by lipoproteins of which there is a “good” sort and a “bad” sort.High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) is the good guy as it take cholesterol to the liver where is recycled or broken downLow Density Lipoprotein (LDL) is the bad half as it is produced by the liver so that the body can repair damaged cells or build new ones. On the face of it that doesn’t seem a bad thing but if the levels of this type of cholesterol are too high they stick to the inside of our blood vessel causing narrowing and that can cause angina, heart attacks or even strokes.If you have been told that you have high cholesterol you are not alone as 6 out of 10 adults in the UK are in the same boat.So what causes it?♦Our diet♦ Saturated fats in the diet like the fats in full fat dairy products, processed meats, cakes and cooking methods like frying♦Carrying extra weight especially around your waist♦ A family history of high cholesterol♦ Inactivity♦SmokingThese are all lifestyle changes and I’ll be dealing primarily with diet here. As with any changes that you make it’s always worth asking yourself why you want to do it, so stop and have a think. Why is it important to YOU to lower your cholesterol? What has stopped you doing something previously and in particular what do you think is going to be most difficult for you? Always keep coming back to why it is important to you especially if you start to slip back into old habits.Once you’ve done that keep an honest food diary for a week – everything that you eat and drink. You may be surprised what you actually eat! Then have a look at what you can introduce into your diet to help you achieve control. Start with small changes and build up it will help you stay on course. What you should be aiming for is a basic healthy diet so have a look at your diary and ask yourself these questions.Am I eating 5 or more portions of fruit and veg a day? Fibres in these foods are good in many ways, use fruit as snacks instead of quick fix snacks like chocolate.What about other fibre? Bread potatoes, pasta, rice, noodles are all fine but try to substitute wholegrain where possible and watch out for added saturated fat associated with certain foods, like butter in mashed potato. Try plain yoghurt instead it is really nice!Am I eating fatty protein instead of lean protein? Steak’s great but in moderation. Lean meats like chicken or fish is better and try some pulses for a change. You might be surprised how much you like them. Try and include a 140g serving of oily rich fish a week. That’s salmon, trout, mackerel or fresh tuna.How much fat am I getting from diary products? Switch to semi-skimmed or skimmed milk products. Reduce slowly so that it’s not a dramatic drop and remember these contain just as much calcium as full fat versions. Alternatively have you tried almond milk on cereal? Really nice!Remember you are more likely to stick to changes you make by taking it slowly so it becomes part of your day rather than a chore, take it a step at a time. Increase your fruit and veg for a week then tackle the fibre and so on.There are other dietary changes you can make as well. These include♦ You can try including soya products in your diet. These include soya milk ( nice on breakfast cereal),soya yoghurts are good for a snack or part of a dessert with fruit or a handful of edamame beans (lovely in salads!), use soya mince instead of ordinary mince.♦ This one is really easy; just eat a handful (about 30g) of unsalted nuts. Whatever you fancy! Almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, cashews or peanuts but don’t get carried away as they are quite high in calories so weigh them out so you don’t overindulge!♦Oats! These are a great source of a special soluble fibre called beta-glucan which is eaten in sufficient portions can help lower your cholesterol. You need to eat quite a lot of oats-it is basically oats at every meal-to get the recommended 3g of beta- glucan to do the job but it does help. Try porridge or oat cereals for breakfast, oatbran in cereal or sprinkled in smoothies or casseroles, oaty bread or oatcakes with lunch .If you feel that you want to do more then you can take alternative therapies that do help if accompanied by lifestyle changes as well. These are♦ Omega 3, 6 and 9 oils either as cod live oil- don’t worry you can take them as capsules so they don’t taste horrible! Or if you are concerned about using valuable fish stocks you can take Flaxseed oil which comes from a plant but does the same job.♦ StatiQinone contains red yeast rice powder, coenzyme Q10 and Flaxseed oil which act together to maintain a normal blood cholesterol♦ Cynara which is a herbal preparation derived from the artichoke plant that has been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levelsIf you are intending to take alternative therapies to treat any condition please check with you pharmacist to ensure they are suitable.
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